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Defining "young adult"?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and talking to different people about what defines someone as being or no longer being a young adult. Some of the factors I’ve heard people use are chronological age, level of maturity, how many benchmarks of adulthood you’ve achieved (degrees, kids, spouse, home ownership/renting etc.)…but I think a big part of it has to do with how old my high school experience is. I graduated ten years ago. I think that my high school experience is now no more useful to a current high school student than if I were 40 – the really useful stuff about high school “culture” and the day-to-day stuff…my experiences are obsolete. Just wanted to open up the conversation, if anyone else has any thoughts.

6 Replies to “Defining "young adult"?”

  1. RaiC says:

    Growing pains… I hate when people have to define us.

    I honestly struggle with the idea that I will have to really grow up one day… you know, stop doing what I’m doing as a young adult and consider much more important things. It’s a part of life but its hard for me to cope with. As far as im concerned, I am an adult and I do adult things (like pay bills, blah blah blah) but I’ve totally accepted that some things I may never stop doing because I love them so much. I may just be the 40 year old woman who doesn’t dress her age nor act like it lol. I’ll be young forever and honestly, as of now, I don’t care what someone thinks as long as my priorities are in order.

    Vered, I think that’s such a great way to gauge it. Highschool is certainly the beginning – mid stages of being a young adult and the further we separate from that place, that culture… we lose the connection to our young ways. We are not as up to date with things and most of us outgrow the “childish” activities, behaviors and ways of a highschool aged teen.

  2. Valerie says:

    Okay, so I had a great TA meeting yesterday and one of the topics included Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages model. I’ve included his perspective, which some may agree and some may disagree. However, as far as I am concerned, I like the idea of a young adult to be “classified” at least til the age of 40. You can consider yourself a young adult til you are 99 years old if you want. I doesn’t matter what others think, it’s how you view yourself.


  3. Sara says:

    I get where your thoughts are about this stuff Vered. I think the whole am I a young adult anymore dilemma is totally valid and really relevant in mental health. Your age can affect what services you are eligible for and who you can relate to the most. Even if we don’t always want to admit it, age can have a large role in the way things work. Personally if I’m going through something I can relate more to someone who is closer to my age because they know where I’m at. Of course you can relate to people who are old or younger but I feel like being a young adult is different than being an adult. And it comes to a point where yes you still feel young but that doesn’t mean your still a young adult.

  4. Sam B. says:

    Sara brings up a good point. Of course you are as young as you feel and all that good stuff but in a literal sense your age does matter. Services are diferent for different ages. And besides for that I feel like there are certain expectations society puts on the given age you are at. It’s kinda weird how these social norms shaped where we should be at different stages of our lives. It’s always said that that’s what “they” say, but a lot of times I wonder who “they” is.

  5. Vered Brandman says:

    Thanks everyone for responding! It sounds like not everybody follows what I’m getting at…
    My bringing this up has less to do with my own identity as an adult or young adult…it’s more about, well, when I was getting started (eight years ago), we were asking for Young Adult stuff in treatment because we were getting grouped with folks in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s…folks who were dealing with COMPLETELY different life issues. We were just getting started with both adulthood and recovery. We were dealing with growing up having social media. We had a different set of standards for what was “normal,” even before you look at mental health and addiction challenges. We wanted to be treated as a distinct demographic population because we felt our needs were different than those of our older peers in treatment.

    If Young Adulthood is a distinct population with specific needs that are different from those of “older” folks, what is the cut-off point for when people become “older”? If there is no cut-off point, and the definition of Young Adulthood is stretched and stretched, I don’t feel that it is still meaningful for identifying “our” needs as different. :/

  6. RaiC says:

    Now thats something to think about!

    I definitely see what you are getting at now. I guess the cut off would be at the point in which our needs change and when we hit specific milestones in life that alter those needs.

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