23-year-olds aren’t adults?

If this  doesn’t generate some angst, I’m not sure what would.Featured Image -- 13152

As reported by the BBC today, Professor Susan Sawyer and her co-authors report that adolescent behavior now starts at age 10 and extends through age 24 in developed countries such as the US and UK. People in this age group remain dependent on their parents and don’t begin to move out on their own and exhibit other adult behaviors until age 25.(1) They argue that government policy needs to consider this longer period of childhood dependency.

There’s no argument over the start of adolescence at age 10. That date, which has moved earlier over the last 200 years, is governed by by physical development of the body and especially sexual organs. Diet has played a major role is promoting earlier development.

The question is how long should people be considered as dependent on their parents?

Critics of the extension of childhood from 19 to 24 argue that it risks further “infantilising young people.” The counter argument is that young adults behavior according to what people expect of them. Expect less, get less.

There actually is a body of research showing the important role that expectations have in shaping behavior.(2) Expect  more, get more.(3)

The confounding issue is financial. A lot of young adults can’t afford health insurance, or housing, or car insurance at age 20 or 24.  That’s why the delay in moving out of the home.

Does the extended time with parents lead to less mature behavior and decision-making? Implicit in the argument by Prof. Sawyer is that it does. Implicit in the counter argument is that as a society, we don’t want to allow that to happen.


  1. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanchi/article/PIIS2352-4642(18)30022-1/ppt
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/200911/can-your-expectations-shape-my-behavior
  3. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/behavior-expectations-how-to-teach-them-aaron-hogan




  1. Vic Crain a more appropriate title for your post may have been: “Why aren’t 23-year olds considered adults…? I agree to the extent that the environment with one’s parents is not dysfunctional and undermining of normal adult development. Thanks for the interesting update. I always enjoy your thoughts.


  2. Well, legally in the US you can piggyback on your parents’ insurance until 26, so it’s not completely unfounded. A lot of other benefits allow you to add children up to that age, but not beyond that.

    I think legally and financially, this makes sense. Millennials are crippled by student loans and lack of opportunities in the job market.

    However, to imply that they are less mature because of it is a stretch. It really depends on the relationship with the parents, and the living situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Age 26 for insurance was one of the Obamacare rules, designed to limit the number of people without insurance. While 20-somethings are largely healthy, there is a rising incidence of colon cancer in that age group. Having them covered makes sense.

      The larger question has to do with decision-making. Adults are expected (many don’t) to live independently, budget, plan for the future and do fewer impulsive acts. Many/most in the 19-25 age group don’t do those things. In fact, we don’t see people planning for the future until they hit 40, which is rather late to start. There is a certain naiveté among some. I had a 25-year-old woman come to me recently about health insurance. She wants to make a living teaching voice and wanted to get health insurance for $150/month. The former requires a masters degree in this market and the latter doesn’t exist locally at that price. The logical solution is for her to move to Canada and get the MA degree there. She hadn’t bothered to consider that her chosen path wouldn’t meet her basic needs, much less help with future needs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, it’s hard to plan for the future when there aren’t career and economic opportunities in the present, even for college graduates. Those of us who make our own path, take a big risk and some of us make it. But there are a lot of millennials still waiting for someone to hire them and hand them their dream job, because that’s what happened in our parents’ time.

        That was a good idea on Obama’s part. I had insurance through Obamacare for $47. This year, I’m getting it for $100+ via my part time job. More expensive, but I have life insurance and dental, so can’t complain haha

        Liked by 1 person

  3. There were a lot of good ideas in Obamacare. If you’re paying less than $250 for healthcare, you are either very young or your employer is picking up a lot of costs. Either is good. The costs go up dramatically as you get older. You will want life insurance independent of work. I’ve run into too many people who lost their job and their insurance and couldn’t afford to replace it. You’ll want to get something permanent that adds cash value over time while it’s still affordable. What’s available for $20/month at age 20 is $1,000/month at age 60.

    You’ve already been where a lot of people are going, but don’t know it and aren’t planning for it. In another post, and I shown the need to expect to be self-employed at some point in life — maybe several times. We’re talking about upwards of 20 million US workers losing jobs to automation over the next 15 years. There will be no new corporate jobs for them, so what do they do?

    Liked by 1 person

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