Are we living in a “Peter Pan Generation”?

Every year I would get excited about my birthday. When I was 12, I couldn’t wait to turn 13 so I could class myself a teenager. When I was 15, I counted down to my 16th birthday because 16 sounded so grown up. I wanted to get a job, earn money, and be able to vote; I was in a rush to get on with my life. I was excited to turn 17 so I could learn to drive and then, finally, to be 18 so I could go out for drinks, leave school and go to university.

However, that changed the year I was turning 22.

As a teenager, I looked at people in their twenties and thought of them as adults, who had everything figured out and knew what they wanted in life. I was dreading turning 22 because I knew I didn’t exactly have a “life plan” – I didn’t know what I wanted to be doing at 40, and although I had my stuff together, it wasn’t a fit “long-term” solution.

The day after my 22nd birthday – after celebrating, of course – I was thinking to myself “Right, you need to get your life together now.” I made a list in my head of all the things I felt like I needed to do as a woman in her twenties. That list included things like saving money, enough to look at moving out; decide if I wanted to have kids and start a family or not; make a plan on finding a career job after graduating university;…

In short: I was thinking of everything that I considered proper-grown-up decisions that would set the course for the rest of my life.

It wasn’t until I was talking to my friend about it, and she told me I was acting like a 35-year-old, not like a girl aged 22, and that I should enjoy being young while I am.

I instantly felt better and assured, so I relaxed. But I did remind her that when my parents were in their early-to-mid twenties, they were married, living in a house and paying a mortgage with a one-year-old and another baby on the way.

“Relax,” she said. “That was a totally different era.”

That could not have been a truer statement – enter the Peter Pan Generation.

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Do we live in a Peter Pan Generation? Credits to Lalelu2000

The Peter Pan Generation is how people label today’s society and its millennials and tricenarians. It argues that people are in denial about their age and, as a result, behave in much the same way as they did ten years ago, like spending money today rather than putting it aside for the future.

This may sound reckless, irresponsible and even immature, but also very recognisable. It represents a group of 25-to-40-year-olds, who exist in a state of extended adolescence and avoid the trappings of responsibility — marriage, mortgage, children — for as long as possible.

Professor Frank Furedi, a sociologist at the University of Kent, who has been studying this phenomenon, said: “Our society is full of lost boys and girls hanging out at the edge of adulthood.”

Currently, the average age at which people marry is 30 for women and 32 for men, whereas back in in the 1970s, women typically married at 22 and men at 24.

Rather than starting a family at 23 (as it was in the 1970s), women are now starting a family at 34, and more than ever at 40 because of fertility treatments and IVF.

As for taking on the commitment of buying a house, the age of first-time buyers has gone from an average of 29-years-old in the 1980s to on average, 38, before they buy their first home. A report from LV Insurers suggests that by 2025, the average age of a first-time home-buyer will be 41.

Three million people aged 20 to 34 still live with their parents, and many others still rely on their parents. According to a report earlier this year, more than 13 million parents paid out over £34 billion in loans to their children who were well into their forties.

So you could say our parents’ generation is a totally different era. But why?

Today’s economy could be to blame. Moving out and buying your own place are considered the first steps of growing up, but in today’s society, that is harder than ever. We constantly hear stories of those who need to move back home just to save for the insurmountable deposits needed to buy a property.

People growing up in our generation can be afraid to do these things — scared to think of themselves as proper adults. Or it could simply be that people in their twenties and thirties feel like they don’t need to grow up (or settle down) just yet.

Some people of our generation don’t feel they need to start work and start a family as soon as they hit their twenties the way previous generations used to. That little window of opportunity means we can play around with our youth a little longer.

 

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