There are smart people out there in the world. I’m sure you’ve met one or two of them. Sometimes I like to pretend like I’m one of them… but I’m not. Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not one of those “fishing for compliments” moments cleverly disguised as humility. I know that I’m not stupid. I tend to consider myself to be rather intelligent. I have more than enough cockiness and pride to go around. But what I’m talking about is smart people, people who are generally characterized by their ability to throw their weight around in the academic arena.
Like I said, I’m not one of these… yet. So in the mean time, I like to read books written by smart people – which I’m doing currently. The book is Lost in Transition, and the author is Christian Smith who is the sociology professor at the University of Notre Dame and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society. And before he was a professor, he got his MA and PhD from Harvard… so yeah, smart person. Anyway, Lost in Transition is part of Smith’s 13-year longitudinal investigation into the spirituality of young people. This book deals primarily with people we generally term “young adults.” Smith and his colleagues, however, think this is a poor label. He says that over the last half-century society has created a new demographic, what he calls “emerging adults.” This stage is neither “the last hurrah of adolescence [nor] an early stage of real adulthood.” Rather, this is a time of transition where young people neither have the responsibilities of genuine adulthood (e.g., marriage, children, a clearly defined career path) nor the restrictions of being a teenager (e.g., minor status, curfews, lack of legal access to alcohol).
In the introduction to the book, Smith lists six major factors that have contributed to the formation of this new demographic. One of these factors is the reality that parents of today’s youth are giving their kids more resources, financial and otherwise, long after they’ve graduated high school. In fact, over the 17-year period after high school (ages 18-34), American parents on average will spend $38,340 (per child) in total on material assistance. Now, this doesn’t include stuff like birthday and Christmas presents; this is necessity stuff, such as money, housing, education and food. Did you catch that?! Parents spend (on average!) almost $40k on each of their kids to help them meet basic needs! If I were going to be completely honest, I’ve received a good deal of support (financial and otherwise) from my parents and in-laws.
So, what do you guys think? Are parents crippling their children by not allowing them to experience the sting and responsibility of real independence? Or, are parents simply providing their children with the necessary resources to succeed in an increasingly competitive economy?