What is the key to being an adult? Clark releases new poll findings

Parents and their emerging adults rank ‘being responsible for yourself’ before money and marriage as key to becoming an adult

_ParentsPoll2_Clark2013 (2) cmpWhat marks the beginning of true adulthood? Parents and their 18- to 29-year-old emerging adult children agree that the most important indicator is accepting responsibility for the consequences of your actions and mistakes, according to a new Clark University Poll of Parents of Emerging Adults, the definitive national survey of this demographic group. The finding contradicts long-held assumptions that financial independence, completing college or even getting married are the ultimate markers of adulthood.

The new poll of more than 1,000 parents follows on the 2012 Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults.

“The new findings show that parents have mixed feelings about the fact that kids take longer than in the past to reach adulthood,” says Clark University Professor of Psychology and Poll Director Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Ph.D. “Most parents are fairly confident that eventually their kids will make their way into stable roles of marriage and steady work. Yet, many parents see the longer road to adulthood as negative rather than positive.”   


Do parents see their 18-29-year-olds kids as adults?

Not the younger ones, but increasingly as their kids pass through the twenties. In response to the question, “Do you feel that your child has reached adulthood?” only 29% of parents of 18-21-year-olds say “yes,” but this rises to 75% for parents of 26-29-year-olds.

What is the key to becoming an adult?

“Accepting responsibility for yourself” – 50% parents/36% emerging adults
“Becoming financially independent” – 22% parents/30% emerging adults
“Finishing education”– 5% parents/16% emerging adults
“Getting married” – 2% parents/4% emerging adults

Is the longer road to adulthood a good or bad thing?

Mostly negative – 43% parents
Mostly positive – 13% parents
Both positive and negative – 44% parents

Will my emerging adult child ever find a spouse?

“Not at all concerned” – 57% parents
“Very concerned” – 6% parents

Will my emerging adult child ever find a stable job?

“Not at all concerned” – 40% parents
“Very concerned” – 18% parents
(61% of 18-29-year-olds say that “I haven’t been able to find the kind of job I really want.”)

Is my emerging adult child taking too long to become financially independent?

“Not at all concerned” – 50%
“Very concerned – 17%
(89% of emerging adults agree “I am confident that eventually I will get what I want out of life.”)

The 2013 Clark University Poll of Parents of Emerging Adults was developed by Arnett, who coined the term “emerging adulthood.” He recently co-authored (with Elisabeth Fishel) “When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up: Loving and Understanding Your Emerging Adult” (Workman; May 2013). The book offers insights into how parents and their emerging adult children can navigate this stage in their relationship/development.

Founded in 1887 in Worcester, MA, Clark University (www.clarku.edu) is a small, liberal arts-based research university addressing social and human imperatives on a global scale.