Millennials: A Peter Pan generation with no happy ending?

Many of us at present are more or less confined to our homes and backyards, thanks to coronavirus restrictions. But spare a thought for the millennials who, even given physical freedom once again, may continue to suffer a locked in crisis all of their own.

These are young people between the age of 25 and 35 who, according to new British research, feel trapped by career or relationship choices. And if they did not feel locked in, they could almost as easily feel locked out, struggling to find their way in the world.

Together, these two groups account for a “formative crisis” afflicting no less than 60 percent of millennials in the UK. This is double the proportion of their parents’ generation who experienced a similar crisis in young adulthood, says psychologist Dr Oliver Robinson of Greenwich University, who conducted the research.

Based on in-depth interviews and a survey of more than 1,000 people, the study found that a “locked in” crisis, where they feel trapped by career or relationship choices, is marginally more common than “locked out”, where a young adult struggled to find their way in the world.

“The rise of the ‘quarter life crisis’ – which the research suggests lasts two years and clusters around age 30 – reflects major social changes in the past 50 years, including delaying marriage and parenthood, increased numbers going to university and rising longevity,” reports the Telegraph. (April 26, 2020).

In recent years we have managed to prolong adolescence by raising the age of school leavers, encouraging more to go to university (or more often, institutions formerly known as technical colleges or colleges of further education), such that the proportion of young people at university has jumped from 14 percent in 1980 to more than 50 percent.

In the process, they have been saddled with massive loans, while sex “education” has groomed them for a promiscuous lifestyle with none of the responsibilities of a permanent partner and children. If they do manage to establish themselves in a career, they then struggle to afford a mortgage on one income instead of two.

Dr Robinson acknowledges that “the current way we run adulthood is more conducive to quarter life crises,” since “[f]or decades we have pushed back the age at which people need to settle down and put roots down. … While their parents’ generation expected to be rooted soon after having passed into legal adulthood, it is normal now to be rootless and undecided when 30. That means you have a lot of instability, chopping and changing, and getting confused about what you should do”.

He adds that the uncertainty could be a “good thing” as young people were freer to find “what flicked their switch” at a young age rather than getting locked into the wrong career or relationship. “False starts are just inherent to being human and moving into adulthood,” he says, and “[w]ith life expectancy rising by at least 10 years to 80 in the past 50 years, today’s millennials could also be “footloose and fancy-free for longer.”

Hmmm. We could probably all think of a 30-something who is not so happy being footloose and fancy-free, who would love to be settled down with a family.

However, the invention of the ageing adolescent must certainly flick a switch for the population control movement, which has long advocated getting women into paid work to delay childbearing and reduce family size by spacing out the generations. 

For women, the average age of marriage has risen from 22 in 1970 to 30, and for men, from 24 to 32, while the average age of first childbirth has risen from 22 to 28. But this is not the average age of first conception, and it is not surprising that some women, on reaching 30, might feel dissatisfied if they find themselves in a career which is not family-friendly, especially if they have aborted some babies along the way. Again, how much of the dissatisfaction with “relationship choices” comes from realising that their partner is not interested in marriage and forming a family?  

Dr Robinson is himself married with a young child, and, according to his has done consultancy work for a number of organisations over the years, including Morpace, Nestle, Orange, the AA, Aventis, Ford, Saab, C own profile,ahoot, Vodafone, Marks and Spencer, Norwich Union, First Choice Holidays, Her Majesty’s Government and the Post Office Ltd. He has also “worked with the bank first direct on a campaign to draw awareness to the phenomenon of quarter-life crisis in young adults”. Indeed, for First Direct bank, he wrote the guide, “How to turn your quarter-life crisis into quarter-life catalyst.”

So it would appear that there are indeed benefits from 30-somethings still doing what teenagers and children used to do before they grew up; that there are indeed opportunities to turn a crisis into a catalyst for banks, the leisure and car industries and for luxury spending generally. But this kind of Keynsianism on sterioids, with its easy-to-get loans (at eye-watering interest rates), massive indebtedness, and the spending of money like water on consumer non-durables, is not conducive to investing in long-term relationships and, most importantly, the next generation.

It seems we have succeeded in producing a throwaway generation that lectures us on recycling and saving the Planet, encouraged by the militant wing of the population control movement, the environmental lobby, which then lauds them for not reproducing.

Yet also benefitting from such developments are big business, big abortion and big contraception, duly followed by the hugely profitable reproductive technology industry, which grows when women who have spent years suppressing their natural fertility discover that it has naturally waned with age.

A generation of mixed-up young people also makes more work for psychologists, although as a psychologist Dr Robinson must surely be aware that promiscuity is not a good preparation for life-long commitment, just as abortion is not a good preparation for parenthood. Even “chopping and changing” careers is not good practice for developing loyalty and therefore not very good for employers and the economy generally.

Let us hope that the coronavirus, in confronting all of us with the reality of death, has at least encouraged us to make something more lasting of life; for in this age of the ‘footloose and fancy free’, everyone seeks commitment but no one wants to commit. We have succeeded in creating a generation of Peter Pans, but with no fairy tale ending.


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