Not So Fast Meet the Twixters. They’re not kids anymore, but they’re not adults either. Ann States for TIMEAfter taking more than six years to graduate from the University of Georgia with a degree in cognitive job for a child 5 years print math, Matt Swann, 27, worked as a waiter in Atlanta.
Michele, Ellen, Nathan, Corinne, Marcus and Jennie are friends. All of them live in Chicago. They go out three nights a week, sometimes more. Ellen is on her 17th, counting internships, since 1996. None of them are married, none have children. All of them are from 24 to 28 years old.
Thirty years ago, people like Michele, Ellen, Nathan, Corinne, Marcus and Jennie didn’t exist, statistically speaking. Back then, the median age for an American woman to get married was 21. She had her first child at 22. It’s 25 for the wedding and 25 for baby. It appears to take young people longer to graduate from college, settle into careers and buy their first homes. Who are these permanent adolescents, these twentysomething Peter Pans?
Ten years ago, we might have called them Generation X, or slackers, but those labels don’t quite fit anymore. This isn’t just a trend, a temporary fad or a generational hiccup. This is a much larger phenomenon, of a different kind and a different order. Social scientists are starting to realize that a permanent shift has taken place in the way we live our lives. In the past, people moved from childhood to adolescence and from adolescence to adulthood, but today there is a new, intermediate phase along the way. Where did the twixters come from?
And what’s taking them so long to get where they’re going? Some of the sociologists, psychologists and demographers who study this new life stage see it as a good thing. The twixters aren’t lazy, the argument goes, they’re reaping the fruit of decades of American affluence and social liberation. This new period is a chance for young people to savor the pleasures of irresponsibility, search their souls and choose their life paths. 20s “kidults” and “boomerang kids,” none of which have quite stuck. Apter became interested in the phenomenon in 1994, when she noticed her students struggling and flailing more than usual after college. Parents were baffled when their expensively educated, otherwise well-adjusted 23-year-old children wound up sobbing in their old bedrooms, paralyzed by indecision.
Legally, they’re adults, but they’re on the threshold, the doorway to adulthood, and they’re not going through it,” Apter says. Jeffrey Arnett, a developmental psychologist at the University of Maryland, favors “emerging adulthood” to describe this new demographic group, and the term is the title of his new book on the subject. His theme is that the twixters are misunderstood. It’s too easy to write them off as overgrown children, he argues. Rather, he suggests, they’re doing important work to get themselves ready for adulthood. See TIME’s special report on paying for college.
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