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Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood, and Why It's Good for Everyone Paperback – Dec 28 2010


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Amazon.com: 17 reviews
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
In defense of the Helicopter parent--it's taking longer to grow up March 8 2011
By ngonzalez. Certified Family Life Educator - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I recently read this book by family scholar Richard Settersten, coauthored with Barbara Rey, titled Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Something are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood, and Why it's Good for Everyone. "I couldn't put it down" is such a hackneyed term that even high school essayists won't use it. But in my case, it's true. I haven't plowed through a book this fast since the Da Vinci Code.

Not Quite Adults explains the phenomenon of the lengthening duration from high school graduation and attaining what has been the experience of transitioning to adulthood of the past few decades. Young adults are meeting the sociological markers of leaving home, finishing school, finding work, getting married and having kids in a more lengthy and often reordered way.

The book had so much meaning for me, for a three reasons. First, the content was co-authored by a first rate scholar. (I work in the field.) Settersten is Professor and the Hallie Ford Endowed Chair in the Human Development and Family Sciences Department at Oregon State University. Moreover, I could identify with every word because I am the mom of a transitioning adult. It affirmed what I am noticing intuitively--that the time elapsing from adolescence to adulthood, as it was defined back in my day, has stretched and that today's young adults need a head start, including supportive parents, to make the leap.

Finally, it confirmed a trend that I began to see increasingly in my previous 15 year career as an academic adviser at a major university. I worked a lot with older students, returning to college in their late 20s or 30s. Typically, they had bailed out after a year or two of college due to lack of funds, or some life circumstance of some kind (such as having a child) or because of some overall confusion or lack of direction. They didn't have a safety net and, by the look of their transcripts, they hadn't found an adviser who gave them a game plan. By the time they arrived at my desk, most of them needed well over 60 semester credits and hundreds and hundreds of dollars in tuition. I saw a steady stream of prospective students in my career who had no savings and were sometimes living hand to mouth. They could just not scrape up the money to start over. Furthermore, they recognized the precarious situation they were in and were reluctant to pursue student loans even though it would be the best investment long term. The authors describe the concepts of "good debt" and "bad debt." A car depreciates the minute you drive it off the lot. A college education just keeps paying dividends throughout a lifetime.

The authors are especially interested in understanding some of the differences between "swimmers" and "treaders." Swimmers get off to the right start. They have a leg up due to booster parents or a fortuitous combination of mentoring and funding. They are able to attain higher education, then a job, and then pursue homeownership and family formation once they are financially established. Treaders get sidelined due to cumulative disadvantage and, in the absence of the right kind of encouragement and support, they are constantly playing catch-up and can't get a foothold on life's ladder.

Get ready for some mythbusting backed by bulletproof scholarly data. The media is rife with judgmental conventional wisdom that what we have here is a "failure to launch." The authors stress the modern truth: " ... what's different today is that the stakes on all fronts are much higher. Poor judgments and small mistakes on the road to adulthood are all substantially more perilous than they were just a decade ago. In an increasingly winner-takes-all society, there is little room for missteps. With missteps, the opportunity to succeed--the bedrock of America--fades. The result: a world that opens up widely to some while narrowing for others, with a shrinking middle in between."

Finally, for parents like me, this book removes the shame that society is attempting to foist on us... that we are crippling our young adults by not tossing them out of nest to "sink" or "swim." There are horror stories of over-involvement--such as enmeshed parents calling professors or employers to intercede for their children--but there has never been more need for a mentoring parent in a couple generations.

Our son, if we have anything to say about it, is going to get a full ride through a Bachelor's degree and, after he completes his degree, he is welcome to live with Dad and I, to come and go as he pleases, until he has his first job and can sock away a little cash. My favorite quote from the entire book is this: "Involved parents, and even the helicopter parents of media fame, aren't so bad after all--especially in contrast with parents who give no support at all. It's far worse to have uninvolved parents than it is to have super-involved ones. Rather than a sign of weakness, involved parents provide young people with advantages, including advice, funds, a roof and a bed, and connections."

This is where the book prods those in my field into what we can should be doing, --namely to start a dialog about launching the young adult in the form of family life education. What does being a healthy springboard for our children look like? And what is the point of over-doing? Right now I'm muddling through with the guideline of teaching him to fish. We need parent education for a new developmental stage--and fast. The rules have changed, and this trend is here to say.

This book is a fantastic read about a critical change in our society. It's in paperback and is therefore quite affordable. I couldn't recommend it more.
15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Overbearing Feb. 8 2011
By Robert Hamilton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this book after reading a review in the Economist, and was intrigued by the premise. I fit into this age group and situation, and was interested to see what their research revealed. This reads more as a guide for 20-somethings than a means for gaining any real meaning into the plight of this section of Americans. In fact, I'll summarize the theme of this book for you in one sentence: Go to college, *graduate*, or your life is screwed. Despite admitting at various times throughout this work that college may not be for everyone, the authors repeatedly hammer home that your life will be a catastrophe if you don't pursue and succeed at getting an education, regardless of your financial and/or home situations. This is contradictory to such statements within the text as, "Not going to college should not mean failure. No student should hate themselves because they repeatedly try but fail."

I suppose if you're not a member of this age group and want some cursory knowledge into 20-somethings, this is worth a read. If you're in this age group, this book will either make you feel like an accomplished god (with a college degree) or a total waste of humanity (who tried and failed).
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Must Read March 7 2011
By Diane Papalia, PhD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not Quite Adults is a groundbreaker! Wide in scope and lively in style, it challenges the stereotype that today's 20-somethings are a generation of entitled slackers who refuse to grow up. Rather, the authors show how the times are a-changin'--- and how these changes have radically impacted the transition to adulthood today, providing insights into why the slower path to growing up is beneficial to all. As a developmental psychologist---and the mother of a 24 year old---I love this book. It should be required reading for anyone interested in what is happening to 20-somethings in America today.
16 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Author is completely out of touch with reality! March 3 2011
By Michael Kim - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
>>Ray suggests that GenY is so frugal that they might take their fear of debt too far, and avoid even good investments such as college, home purchases, and small business start-up costs. "Many young people, especially those from lesser means, see the price tag [of college tuition] and think, 'Oh my god, I can't possibly take that on.' They could be shortchanging themselves,' says Barbara Ray, since college is an investment that pays off."<<

How out of touch is this author?

1) Home purchases? Has Barbara Ray been living under a rock the past five years? Missed this little thing called the real estate bubble? How could anyone possibly say that Gen Y is "afraid of debt" after we have all been severely punished by reckless borrowing? Talk about a lesson not learned.

2) College? How you seen the ridiculous tuition hikes that this nation is suffering through? It has gotten so ridiculous that NYU students (considered to be one of the most expensive universities in the US) are protesting! I just finished reading a report about how ivy-educated lawyers can't get a job that pays more than $15 an hour, while holding six-figure debt loads. I agree that higher education is essential in the growth of a person (financially and emotionally), but in this world of predatory for-profit education tricking today's youth, and law schools pumping rosters for extra tuition, navigating the higher education waters have become so much more difficult.

3) Small business start up costs? Have you tried to get a SBA loan recently? It is nearly impossible. What the author fails to address is how TARP funds got pushed into bank treasury accounts and never found their way to stimulus lending. I am a firm believer in entrepreneurship driving growth, but Ray's ridiculous assumptions are outrageous.

This is just another author taking a vague generational classification and creating assumptions that cannot be justified by any sort of reality. I can't take anything in the book seriously.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Not Convinced Aug. 17 2012
By ajs34 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Being a younger adult myself, I was interested in reading a scholarly piece on the common failure to launch phenomenon I've seen among my friends and contemporaries. I agree with the authors, at least on my limited, anecdotal experiences, that this is a trend, but I was not convinced that it is a good one. Or, at least that it has aspects to it that are beneficial to society at large. They do a good job of marshaling arguments in support of their position, but my feet on the ground perspective of the slackers who mooch off mom and dad while at the same time exhibiting no discernible plan or desire to live on their own has tainted my view sufficiently that I was a hard sell to begin with. For that reason, in the interest of fairness, you may want to take my review of with a grain of salt.


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