The Norman Transcript

October 7, 2013

Kids may never grow up

By Taylor Armerding
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — I’m waiting for the American Psychological Association to declare that Peter Pan Syndrome is not only nothing to be ashamed of, but something to celebrate.

Why should those in what used to be called the young adult years bother to grow up, when our benevolent government is encouraging them to remain dependent into their 20s?

In this, the first week of our glorious new non-workers’ paradise of Obamacare, there are dozens — probably hundreds — of ways that the new regime will make health care less effective, more expensive, less efficient, more dysfunctional, more confusing and more byzantine.

But I’m particularly amused and depressed at the provision that says young adults can stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until they turn 26 — and declarations from the president that we’re all supposed to think this is a good thing.

That’s right. The fact that millions of people who by every other legal definition have been full-fledged adults for several years still need to remain dependent on their parents for health insurance is not seen as a problem. It’s just one more really cool thing about Obamacare.

It also is designed to help the president duck the inconvenient reasons why this provision is necessary. Among them are that too many young adults are unemployed and too many are carrying crushing debt from borrowing for college degrees that have not provided them with marketable skills. They have also been told that they should only take a job commensurate with their advanced training, not settle for anything entry level.

Rather than address that, government instead says, in effect, “Hey, don’t worry. We’ll take the pressure off by letting your parents keep paying your bills.”

None of this should surprise anyone. It is typical for government to create problems through overregulation and taxation, and then announce a solution that involves more regulation and taxation.

But there has also been a continuing, decades-long trend toward postponing adulthood — very selectively. Young people demand, and are given, all the privileges of adulthood. They can vote, drive, drink, smoke, borrow money sign contracts, rent cars and all the fun things, but when it comes to the more difficult responsibilities of adulthood, like paying their own bills — well, they cannot be expected to be mature enough for those.

The BBC reported recently that child psychologists are getting a new directive — that the age range they work with is increasing from 0-18 to 0-25. 18-25 will now be considered “late adolescence.”

Child psychologist Laverne Antrobus, of London’s Tavistock Clinic, told the BBC that children have been rushed into adulthood, and that neuroscience shows, “their emotional maturity, self-image and judgment will be affected until the prefrontal cortex of the brain has fully developed,” which doesn’t happen until “well into early 20s.”

It is enough to make one wonder how human civilization survived until now. How did a nation built by people, most of whom got married and went to work in their mid teens, become one of the greatest civilizations in history?

Or was it just that the complete development of the prefrontal cortex was not as critical in an agrarian and industrial society?

To the BBC’s credit, they did find one dinosaur sociologist, Frank Furedi at the University of Kent, who decried the “infantilizing culture” trend. He said it leads to a loss of aspiration for independence, “inadvertently reinforces that kind of passivity and powerlessness and immaturity and normalizes that,” and leads to difficulties in conducting mature adult relationships.

Sounds like more Democratic voters to me. What’s not to like? No wonder the president and his party are crowing that they will be in power for a generation or more. At this rate, they will be in power indefinitely — at least until, as the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher once said, they run out of other people’s money.

This is a corrosive trend, but would make a bit more sense if there were consistency to it. The argument that adolescence extends to 26 is highly selective — it offers to delay the pains of adulthood while granting all the pleasures.

If we are going to take seriously that young adults’ “emotional maturity, self-image and judgment” are not formed until age 26, then why in the name of public safety would we allow them behind the wheel of a car? Why should they be allowed to drink alcohol at age 21, or even 24, and cloud their undeveloped judgment even further? And why should they be allowed to participate in deciding who gets elected to public office at any level if they are not ready to live independently and pay their own bills?

That, if the psychologists are even willing to discuss it, exposes the sham of the whole thing. They never say young twentysomethings are too immature for the privileges — only the responsibilities.

Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at