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New & Views - Jun, 1992 Issue 

Life On The Edge Of Adulthood
...young adults struggling with the end of adolescence
By Deborah Scott, Enrollment Development
(714) 582-8761

They've been called "boomerang kids, baby busters, and the twentysomething" generation. Caught between the baby boomers and their babies, they are unsung and hardly noticed. For the most part, many of them possess only a hazy sense of their own identity. They have trouble making decisions and have become rootless and noncommittal. With few, if any, role models, they are postponing the future. They pine for a past in which they believe issues were clear and commitment was easy.

There are approximately 48 million young adults between the ages of 18-27 in America today. We consider them our future, and yet the majority of them are un-prepared for the present. "The majority of young adults I see, while often bright and creative, are over-whelmed by the challenges of growing up in an increasingly complex world. I find that they will channel their frustrations in self destructive directions such as academic problems, undisciplined life styles, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual acting out, and family problems. If they have learning disabilities and weak social skills, then their lack of positive self identity increases. Unfortunately they often seem unable to develop the necessary skills to live responsibly and independently," states Dr. James H. Powell, a California psychologist working exclusively with this age group.

While young adults struggle with growing up, their parents wrestle with their children's inability to move out and live independently. Two-thirds of 18-24 year old individuals live with their parents or other relatives. In fact, more young people are living with parents than at any time since the Depression. This hesitation about moving on, is for some, the recognition that achieving the life style they've grown up with may not be possible. In short, the "American Dream" as painted by their parents and society takes on a decidedly different hue.

Emotional growth and emancipation issues are further complicated by academic hesitancy. Young adults today are taking longer to finish school. The tremendous pressure put on them by society, parents, and peers to obtain a college education, results in many of them pursuing some form of higher education. The highly competitive nature of college today results in many of them dropping out. Some will elect to "stop out" while others will "boomerang" back home, much to the dismay of parents that are forced to support them. This "boomerang" pattern is becoming increasingly common for those young adults with identified learning disabilities. According to Jayne Selby-Longnecker, a special education program director for a private school for young adults in California, "The programs, attention, and special education services available to them as adolescents, while in existence at the college level, can become somewhat harder to find, and sometimes less available. When this is combined with the emotional and independence issues many of them struggle with, there is serious potential for failure and a strong recipe for disaster."

The question remains of how best to help these young people and their families. While resources that specifically serve this age group can be hard to find, they do exist. Programs such as HILLTOP in Southern California for emotional growth and emancipation, and DYNAMY on the East Coast for those who want to "stop out" for a year, are two examples. Additionally, individual programs and professionals can also be found in communities around the country. The solutions for this generation will not come easily. Postponing the future in a fast paced global society seems risky at best. Pining for the past may fade as the realities of history come more sharply into focus. Preparation for the present seems the only logical answer. To achieve that, they will need help.

Copyright 1992, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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