Why Millennials Are Delaying Rites of Adulthood

Millennials may not necessarily be participating in typical adolescent rites of passage.

A study published in the journal Child Development found Millennials less likely to participate in adolescent rites of passage compared to teens between 1976 and 1979:

  • 63% of high school seniors have gone on a date (between 2010 and 2015), versus 86% during the mid-to-late 1970s
  • 67% have tried alcohol, versus 93% between 1976 and 1979

Because of these generational differences, Millennials’ behavior patterns are fertile ground for people studying developmental psychology. These insights are important in learning how to manage, work with and live with Millennials, and how their beliefs and actions influence others.

This delayed transition into adulthood isn’t something Millennials (born between 1982 and 2000) necessarily outgrow. Many are putting off other adulthood milestones, according to the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • One-third of 18-34-year-olds (24 million people) lived with their parents in 2015; one in four 25-34-year-olds living in their parents’ home weren’t going to school or working
  • Eight out of 10 may not marry until they reach 45; in the 1970s, people were married, on average, by 30
  • By 2015, six states had a majority of young adults living independently; in 2005, it was 35 states

Developmental psychologists must use their considerable talents and skills to properly study this issue in a rich assortment of environments. These professionals must be able to identify and analyze cognitive and social psychology to development patterns at every stage of the life cycle.

In business, for example, professionals with a psychology background are important to the human resources function, as different management and communication styles are needed to accommodate three generations in the workforce – Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Psychology pros also may play a role in offering direct employee assistance and designing effective recruitment strategies, as The American Psychological Association points out.

The Millennial generation is a significant one that the Pew Research Center notes now surpasses the Baby Boomers in number – 75.4 million versus 74.9 million in 2015. Those trained in developmental psychology may help steer the way, as Millennials continue to have a huge impact on our society and culture.

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