Why Millennials Can’t Grow Up

Rates of depression are soaring among millennials in college. Photo by Jupiter Images/Thinkstock/Getty Images

Rates of depression are soaring among millennials in college. Photo by Jupiter Images/Thinkstock/Getty Images

Millennial narcissism: Helicopter parents are college students’ bigger problem.

Amy (not her real name) sat in my office and wiped her streaming tears on her sleeve, refusing the scratchy tissues I’d offered. “I’m thinking about just applying for a Ph.D. program after I graduate because I have no idea what I want to do.” Amy had mild depression growing up, and it worsened during freshman year of college when she moved from her parents’ house to her dorm. It became increasingly difficult to balance school, socializing, laundry, and a part-time job. She finally had to dump the part-time job, was still unable to do laundry, and often stayed up until 2 a.m. trying to complete homework because she didn’t know how to manage her time without her parents keeping track of her schedule.

helicopterparentI suggested finding a job after graduation, even if it’s only temporary. She cried harder at this idea. “So, becoming an adult is just really scary for you?” I asked. “Yes,” she sniffled. Amy is 30 years old.

Her case is becoming the norm for twenty- to thirtysomethings I see in my office as a psychotherapist. I’ve had at least 100 college and grad students like Amy crying on my couch because breaching adulthood is too overwhelming.

In 2000, psychologist Jeff Arnet coined the term “emerging adolescence” to describe extended adolescence that delays adulthood. People in their 20s no longer view themselves as adults. There are various plausible reasons fo this, including longer life spans, helicopter parenting, and fewer high paying jobs that allow new college grads to be financially independent at a young age.

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