I’ve been reading The Social Animal by David Brooks (a review will follow when I’ve finished it) and one thing that struck me was a short discussion on the stages of adulthood.
Brooks says that there used to be for stages of life: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. Reaching the adulthood stage was defined by moving out, becoming financially independent, getting married and having children. In the USA in 1960, 70% had achieved these by age 30. In 2000 it was fewer than 40% and the rates are even lower in Western Europe.As a result, new stages of life have been identified by academics. These are: childhood, adolescence, odyssey, adulthood, active retirement and old age. Young people in the West today are taking longer over their education and postponing marriage and starting a family. Part of this, one assumes, is due to longer average lifespans and part is presumably due to financial pressures, such as the amount needed for a house deposit, which are heavier on today’s twenty-somethings than they were on their parents, as I’ve written about before. If you want to read more about the Odyssey stage, Brooks wrote an article about it in The New York Times, the paper for which he is a columnist, back in 2007. There is also this Baltimore Sun article.
Reading this was one of those rare moments – when you recognise yourself in something you read. I am in the Odyssey stage. I am financially independent and could afford to move out but instead I live at home while trying to save a deposit for a house. I’m nowhere near getting married or starting a family. This is me – and lots of my friends.