The Cognitive Benefits of Being a Man-Child

Nov 3, 2016

By Jessa Gamble

In a time when college graduates return to live under their parents’ roofs and top careers require years of internships and graduate degrees, the age of adulthood is receding, practically into the 30s. Adolescence, loosely defined as the period between puberty and financial independence, now lasts about 15 years, twice as long as it did in the 1950s.

Part of this is due to the declining age of puberty in both males and females, but most of that extension appears in the 20s, when an increasing number of young people are still dependent on their parents. There is some concern that all of this dependence could lead to a lasting immaturity and failure to take on responsibility.

But according to developmental researchers, there is one lasting gift that extended adolescence can bestow, and it resides in the brain. “Neurobiological capital” is built through a protracted period of learning capacity in the brain, and it is a privilege that comes to those lucky enough to enjoy intellectually stimulating environments in late adolescence. Far from a contributor to emotional immaturity, the trend toward an adolescence that extends into the mid-20s is an opportunity to create a lifelong brain-based advantage.


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33 comments on “The Cognitive Benefits of Being a Man-Child

  • Jessa Gamble and the experts she cites may have to go back to the blackboard and revise some basic numbers that delimit enthusiasm for chronologically “prologed adolescence” if their proposal is not to become a recipe for human extinction.

    A college-bound high school student graduates at 17 or 18 and should therefore graduate from college at around 21 to 22 usually extended by a year or two with contingent interruptions. In any event she returns home jobless.

    At 23 she takes a year off to travel for personal enrichment and returns home jobless at 24.

    She enrolls in a two-year Masters program and earns a degree at age 26. She returns home still jobless but can earn a Phd in three more years using the Masters credit as a springboard buttressed by internships. Depending on academic performance, marketable skills, and promise demonstrated by special job-related achievements she might find employment at 29 or 30 if she is lucky. She may or may not start looking for a partner. If she has fallen in love in her early to mid-twenties, she has had to postpone marriage if her boyfriend also lives with his parents.

    Assume every thing goes well and she marries at 30 she may well plan to work for two years to consolidate her career before having a baby. Childbirth occurs in her 32rd year. When and if to have s second child falls under a cloud of diminishing returns after she returns to gainful employment and dedicates herself to winning promotions to make up for lost time.

    But wait, there’s more! Presuppose her parents generation followed the same pattern before her. Her parents are in their early to mid-sixties and pretty broke. She’s not inclined to help them out financially with young children of her own to feed and a career ladder to climb for years to come.

    The unintended consequences are clear: parents and kids alike will see the miserable lifelong drudgery this life style will inflict on anyone who is not wealthy. Employees counting on early retirement (like Europeans and Americans) will have to give up their dream and toil in the salt mines until they drop dead to support the kid who hangs around their neck at home like a mummified albatross. Fewer and fewer women (and men) will have children even if they marry. A recipe for human extinction.



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  • Fewer and fewer women (and men) will have children even if they marry. A recipe for human extinction.

    Melvin, a few posts ago you were agonised over population growth.

    Given that an American produces 200 times more CO2 than an Ethiopean (and Ethiopia has committed to reduce its carbon emissions by two thirds in the next 15 years) isn’t this potential crash of American fecundity in the interests of lifting their intellectual quality great news for the planet?



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  • Melvin #1
    Nov 4, 2016 at 3:46 am

    A college-bound high school student graduates at 17 or 18 and should therefore graduate from college at around 21 to 22 usually extended by a year or two with contingent interruptions. In any event she returns home jobless.

    At 23 she takes a year off to travel for personal enrichment and returns home jobless at 24.

    She enrolls in a two-year Masters program and earns a degree at age 26. She returns home still jobless but can earn a Phd in three more years using the Masters credit as a springboard buttressed by internships.

    So now let’s look at some real examples!

    A college-bound high school student

    . . . . Does some part-time bar or restaurant work, in evenings and weekends while still at school.

    graduates at 17 or 18

    Then goes off to Uni as an undergraduate.

    During the summer breaks they do some part-time work and training in retail, or a subject related job in their specialist area.

    After graduation, they then either become employed at a base-level in their specialism, at home or abroad or seek higher academic qualifications.

    They may seek higher professional qualifications, or may do relevant training on the job, to advance their careers.

    After further qualifications, they then move on to progressively higher status jobs in line with their increasing capabilities. – unless of course, they have picked non-employment related subjects, for which there is an oversupply of graduates, in which case they are more likely to follow your scenario!



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  • Phil: Melvin, a few posts ago you were agonised over population growth.

    Still am. World population in the aggregate must be stabilized then reduced with sub-replacement total fertility rates on a systematic basis that allows for replacement fertility to recover when population falls within an optimum range. This is not what is happening in Europe where many countries are aging and starting to lose their ethnic populations. A total fertility rate of 1.5 children per woman over a lifetime in Germany would shrink the ethnic German population by 60% over a century measured against a fixed base with generation intervals of 30 years.

    The article suggests -even recommends- a facet of the lifestyle that has already aged and threatened European
    demographic identity. Researchers established many years ago that the human brain does not fully develop until around age 25. Jessa Gamble jumps on a bandwagon with other affluent advocates to reach an absurd conclusion that a socio-economic trend actually works for the benefit of individuals and society under the rationalization of superior brain development. She’s rationalizing the generally dysfunctional and immiserating conditions of a 30 year old “child” living with his/her parents into a stereotype of the Chinese whiz kid who holds a part time job while hitting the books 60-70 hours a week subsequent to embarking on a lucrative career. (How many kids living at home settle into couch potato hours, abusing drugs or alcohol, or running around with friends to nightclubs and concerts? There is a dark side to “prolonged adolescence.”)



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  • Phil: Given that an American produces 200 times more CO2 than an Ethiopean (and Ethiopia has committed to reduce its carbon emissions by two thirds in the next 15 years) isn’t this potential crash of American fecundity in the interests of lifting their intellectual quality great news for the planet?

    Because Ethiopia has committed to reduce its carbon emissions by two thirds in the next 15 years, it looks like the enlightened nation has solved its own problems. The United Kingdom could extend gratitude to Ethiopia, by way of a humanitarian gesture, accepting as many economic migrants from Ethiopia’s 102 million population as care to settle in your green and pleasant land. (Ethiopia is projected to have 169 million people by 2015, an increase equal to the current population of the UK.)



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  • …isn’t this potential crash of American fecundity in the interests of
    lifting their intellectual quality great news for the planet?

    @phil – I know this comment was well meaning and if I remember correctly you work in a sector that has something positive to do with the environment (my apologies if I’m incorrect). And I’m with you in sentiment. But let’s be clear. The planet is indifferent. It’s great news for future generations of humans.



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  • Ethiopia is projected to have 169 million people by 2015.
    Apologies for my typo: should be 2050.

    Steven 007: You are spot on.

    The United States is currently the third most populous nation in the world behind China and India and projected to grow to almost 400 million by 2050 propelled by high net immigration and population momentum delivering additional growth from youthful age structures of previous immigrant populations.



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  • Melvin’s scenario in comment #1 is a real problem in America where there are limited resources for maternity leave, paternity leave, medical insurance and college costs that are exorbitant and plunge young people deep into debt. Top that off with the nuclear family model which loads terrible stress onto women by forcing them into a guilt trip if they go right back to work and leave the child in daycare or into financial stress if they stay home until the child is school age. A total career killer. A young woman’s mom may have a career of her own, preventing her from caring for her grandchild. In America it takes two incomes to own a house unless, as Melvin points out, they are wealthy.

    Run his scenario through using an extended family model however, and it works out to be less stressful in certain ways. Women in extended families always have childcare on site. Their mother, mother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, or cousin, some of whom may be lactating, can take over childcare at a moments notice. Children form close bonds with many close relatives all around them and their mom can come and go as she pleases. She may contribute to the family income or continue her studies for an even greater contribution down the road.

    Not all the young people will proceed through to a PhD but with the support network of the family and government support for health, tuition and housing subsidies, hopefully they will advance their education and work experience as far as possible and if a child comes along then it won’t derail their parent’s education and career.

    Melvin

    generally dysfunctional and immiserating conditions of a 30 year old “child” living with his/her parents

    and

    (How many kids living at home settle into couch potato hours, abusing drugs or alcohol, or running around with friends to nightclubs and concerts? There is a dark side to “prolonged adolescence.”)

    Jeesh, that’s a sad view of things. I can’t relate. We never push our kids to leave. With all the support we’ve given them we are very happy with the state of affairs here. With two daughters and two nephews in close proximity their combined income equals more than 200K. This includes a masters degree engineer, a finance B.S., a business B.S and a high school grad kicking ass in corporate structure somehow, a daughter-in-law medical technician ready to go back for education to the next level. With the combined income of all of the offspring in my domain, early retirement for me became a real possibility.

    All of them have learned how the extended family model works by spending time in their Algerian extended family on site. (there are some downsides!) and all agree that it’s the best way for us to move forward as a family. An occasional underachiever in this model is easily accommodated. Next spring I will be shopping for a multifamily living space.

    Abusing drugs? Nightclubs? Concerts and friends? Oh my! 🙁 But as bad as all of that sounds, I can tell you that it’s still possible to graduate with a B.S. from a decent enough University with honors. Oh yes, take it from me, it’s definitely possible.



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  • “But according to developmental researchers, there is one lasting gift that extended adolescence can bestow, and it resides in the brain.”

    This is one theory based on neuroscience that I agree with wholeheartedly.



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  • Dan #9
    Nov 4, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    “But according to developmental researchers, there is one lasting gift that extended adolescence can bestow, and it resides in the brain.”

    This is one theory based on neuroscience that I agree with wholeheartedly.

    It has been known for decades, that those who keep building their active mental learning faculties into the 20s, have them decline with age, much more slowly than those who drop out in their teens.



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  • Alan4D

    Your sentence was not quite clear.

    This is a serious question, Alan. My adolescence has extended into the 50s. Is that too much of a good thing?



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  • Dan #11
    Nov 4, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    There is an articled here; –

    http://news.mit.edu/2015/brain-peaks-at-different-ages-0306

    Scientists have long known that our ability to think quickly and recall information, also known as fluid intelligence, peaks around age 20 and then begins a slow decline. However, more recent findings, including a new study from neuroscientists at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), suggest that the real picture is much more complex.

    The study, which appears in the journal Psychological Science, finds that different components of fluid intelligence peak at different ages, some as late as age 40.

    The researchers gathered data from nearly 50,000 subjects and found a very clear picture showing that each cognitive skill they were testing peaked at a different age. For example, raw speed in processing information appears to peak around age 18 or 19, then immediately starts to decline. Meanwhile, short-term memory continues to improve until around age 25, when it levels off and then begins to drop around age 35.

    For the ability to evaluate other people’s emotional states, the peak occurred much later, in the 40s or 50s.



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  • Steve

    great news for the planet

    The planet is indifferent. It’s great news for future generations of humans.

    I really did intend more than just humans. The rocks don’t give a damn but a lot of the wildlife would…. if only it knew…



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  • Alan

    I guess I misunderstood the OP. I thought “an extended adolescence” (whatever that means) was good for the brain. I take back what I said about the study, especially since I don’t understand it.



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  • Melvin

    Because Ethiopia has committed to reduce its carbon emissions by two thirds in the next 15 years, it looks like the enlightened nation has solved its own problems.

    What problem? In AGW/CO2 terms it is 0.15% percent of the problem of the USA.

    The United Kingdom could extend gratitude to Ethiopia, by way of a humanitarian gesture, accepting as many economic migrants from Ethiopia’s 102 million population as care to settle in your green and pleasant land. (Ethiopia is projected to have 169 million people by 2015, an increase equal to the current population of the UK.)

    The AGW problem increasing to 0.22% of the USA.

    On imigration, I’m still fuming at the racist poison that has erupted here. I apologise to all those who have come here. You helped my company when British graduates fell short and now you feel unwelcome. This is deeply shaming. East European immigrants rescued our local glass house industry, now all put in jeopardy.



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  • LaurieB: Their mother, mother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, or cousin, some of whom may be lactating, can take over childcare at a moments notice.

    By coincidence this description also applies to female lions in a pride. When a cub is born all females lactate so that any one can feed the offspring when the mother is absent or dies. Lion societies implement remarkable systems of childcare, with nannies and guardians staying at home base to protect and nurture the cubs while the intermittent “career” females go off to the hunt.

    The extended family model certainly works in traditional societies and to a lesser extent in modern society and indeed has worked for most of human history. Extended family arrangements for childcare, elder care, pooling mutual-support income, inter-generational housing, and daily socializing provide clear benefits and costs. More vital to the effectiveness of the extended family is the stability of the conditions sustaining the institution that started to break down at an accelerating pace in Europe (and America) in the decades since WWII. Around the middle of the 20th century the nuclear family came into predominance as family members became more more mobile and moved at distances from one another. Smaller family size rendered communal family living more impractical and a new ethic of privacy rendered interpersonal conflicts with multiple intrusive family members (“in-law” syndrome) intolerable. Certainly, governments motivated by social consensus can do much more to provide improved childcare, paid family leave, and flexible work schedules to relieve undue burdens on mothers and fathers.

    I believe the article is dealing mainly with the separate issue of how long young adults should be indulged and therefore encouraged to remain in their family home and dependent on parental financial support. There is no one-size-fits all answer to the question. “It depends.” Probably some desire for sensationalism combined with overprotective sentiments that infantilize adult children suggested the age of 30. “Adolescence” extended to age 30 is unfeasible on the scale of national populations, dysfunctional in operation, and destructive to social welfare and perhaps even species survival.



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  • I have in the past credited the “invention of childhood”, an indulged and comparatively protected period of play and learning, in eighteenth century England (spending on children specifically went up four fold and child-centred businesses were formed) as a major contributor to the inventive explosion that was the Industrial Revolution.

    Making 25 the new 8 or whatever will eke out more of this same playful virtue, though one imagines there might be a law of diminishing returns. The freedom to invent and imagine find and solve problems, however parochial or trivial is the essence of what cultural naked apes do. This freedom comes from wealth created by earlier, still-playfull naked apes.

    There is one caveat to all this, the solving of increasingly trivial problems…. First World problems.

    Our child-like, pampered twentysomething year olds suffer just as strongly but from next to nothing. Increasingly they are “triggered” by trivia, they suffer death from a thousand micro-aggressions.

    Grant them this extended release from responsibility whilst they learn some more, but don’t over pamper or protect. Insist they volunteer in Africa or help the old. An essential part of their education is that they understand how insanely privileged they are, having few problems, and that they will have more fulfilled lives adopting some others’.



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  • phil rimmer #18
    Nov 5, 2016 at 7:14 am

    Our child-like, pampered twentysomething year olds suffer just as strongly but from next to nothing. Increasingly they are “triggered” by trivia, they suffer death from a thousand micro-aggressions.

    Grant them this extended release from responsibility whilst they learn some more, but don’t over pamper or protect.

    I think this is the key difference between the scenario in my post @ #3 and Melvin’s post @#1.

    An extended period of support for investigation, learning, and acquiring skills, must not be perverted into simply a lazy, self centred, liberation from the responsibilities of citizenship!



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  • Phil

    I don’t think I quite know what adolescence is and wasn’t kidding when I said that I may still be in “late adolescence.”

    I’ll ask you what this (below) means or if it isn’t just more gobbledygook.

    “Neurobiological capital” is built through a protracted period of learning capacity in the brain, and it is a privilege that comes to those lucky enough to enjoy intellectually stimulating environments in late adolescence.

    The bad students, the obscure ones, the rebellious adolescents, the depressed and alienated ones, the ones that are offered stimulation but don’t want to be stimulated; they want to be left alone,—Those are the ones to watch. They are (often) the late-bloomers – and that late blooming often starts well after adolescence has drawn to an end. The ones who appear curious about life and ideas and do well in school, and are pampered and coddled till they’re blue in the face, often (but not always) grow up to be mediocre, to lead mediocre, intellectually colorless lives.

    Nietzsche said that one’s education begins at age thirty.

    But then what is adolescence? That’s my question. Can you attach a number to it? Is this a fixed thing with a beginning, a middle and an end?



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  • @ phil (#13)

    I figured you did, Phil. It’s just something that’s always stuck in my craw. I’ve argued with folks that anthropomorphize the earth (Mother Earth) and forget that it’s a rock (or more specifically a rocky planet). They tend to be reticent about stating the obvious (we want to save ourselves) because they think it comes off as “selfish”, apparently only aware of that word as a pejorative. And certainly when I said humans I intended to extend that to include all mammalians, and indeed the rest of the living creatures.



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  • Article: Instead of falling into the rote tasks of an entry-level position after college, a debt-free graduate might volunteer overseas for a year and learn a new language and culture. In the world of enriching experiences and brain plasticity, as everywhere else, time is money. Parents who expect their children to make their way in the world after college, as they themselves did in the 70s and 80s, may be surprised to find they are not quite as obsolete as they had planned to be.
    “Parents should prepare themselves for the timetable being different,” says Steinberg. “I never anticipated that my son would depend on us after college. Had I known that, we might have saved extra.”
    To maximize neurobiological capital, it soon may not be enough for parents to sock away money in college savings accounts. Some may need to budget for a Neurobiological Runway Fund to cover the post-college years, too.
    [Up to age 30 ???].

    I’m puzzled why Steinberg pretends to be telling parents something new. Behind the scientific jargon, is the contemporary realization that a college (Bachelors) degree is “entry level” Employers prefer applicants with Masters degrees plus. Increasingly, a garden variety college graduate may only have a ticket to longer-term unemployment. Common sense dictates that parents, including those in modest or low income brackets help their kids “get through” college and some graduate school in proportion to available family resources. Insufficient funds for higher education may frequently be subsidized by college financial assistance and parental demands that their kids work part time without slacking to cover expenses (See Alan4’s scenario: comment #3).

    I suspect Steinberg enjoys affluent income status that permits him to project his elite capacities on the general population to maintain a child in university without outside work requirements, provide money for extended world travel before or after earning degrees, or working for “free” in foreign charitable services.

    The article is muddled with truisms, elite insularity and oblivion to ordinary parental rights and adult student obligations. The vast majority of parents will provide home living opportunities with conditions for college age “children” for a limited time at parental discretion. Variously parents can expect children to move out if their educational efforts prove fraudulent and aimless; if the work ethic disappears into idleness and excuses; if they become dysfunctional through drug and alcohol abuse; if they become preoccupied with entertainments and peer socializing. Reciprocally, children living at home during/after earning a college degree should meet obligations to pursue studies diligently setting sights on gainful employment, working part time as required, and seeking roommates (contingently sometimes a romantic partner) whose part time/full time incomes will pay for independent living in residences away from home. Suggesting that parents, struggling to live from paycheck to paycheck often with credit card debt, mortgage and car payments save “extra money” for indulgent privileges they could never entertain is ridiculous and insulting.



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  • Melvin #23
    Nov 5, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    “Parents should prepare themselves for the timetable being different,” says Steinberg. “I never anticipated that my son would depend on us after college. Had I known that, we might have saved extra.”

    I would agree with you that this is poor thinking on the part of parents.

    When my daughter wanted a car, she worked part time during weekends and holidays to earn the money to buy a small, good, but old one (which I helped her choose). You don’t teach people skills, by doing it for them! 40,000 miles later she changed it for a newer one.

    I suspect Steinberg enjoys affluent income status that permits him to project his elite capacities on the general population to maintain a child in university without outside work requirements, provide money for extended world travel before or after earning degrees, or working for “free” in foreign charitable services.

    After she graduated with a law degree in England, she won a scholarship and a year’s paid placement, as a receptionist / secretary in New York. – (and did and passed American business diploma course while there.)

    At the end of the gap-year she had a tour of the Southern States before returning home to live with us, but was too late to embark on an other university course, so got a job with an insurance company for a few months until the start of the next academic year, when she commenced her postgraduate professional legal training.
    She had already been working some years as a fully qualified lawyer, and was buying a house on a mortgage before the age of 30.

    There is a very big difference in the ambitious students, and those who want fill in time to put off getting down to work.

    In my own work in university, I see some of the latter as they fail their exams, and contemplate serious catch-up study to resit them, or they are just forced to drop out all together.

    BTW: My daughter has a twin brother who also attended a different uni as an undergraduate at the same time as her!



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  • Alan4: There is a very big difference in the ambitious students, and those who want fill in time to put off getting down to work.
    In my own work in university, I see some of the latter as they fail their exams, and contemplate serious catch-up study to resit them, or they are just forced to drop out all together.

    Thanks for sharing your family story. We seem to be on the same page always receptive to different stories.
    All the best to your successful [adult] children and kudos to you for the way you raised them.



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  • Melvin #23
    Nov 5, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    I think there are subject related issues here, but this is not how my son’s company works.

    Behind the scientific jargon, is the contemporary realization that a college (Bachelors) degree is “entry level” Employers prefer applicants with Masters degrees plus. Increasingly, a garden variety college graduate may only have a ticket to longer-term unemployment.

    He joined this company with a graduate BSc. degree in computer science, and made a conscious decision NOT to study for a masters’ degree, but instead to do short specialist work related courses according to the requirements of the job at the time.
    In IT, he sees a masters’ degree as simply coming back two years or so behind the competition, with a general skill set less well tuned to the in-house requirements.

    By the age of thirty he was Head of Development and Technical Director; – albeit, the youngest director on the board.
    He now interviews students recruits.
    The company policy is to accept 2nd year undergraduate students on paid placements – arranged with the university, – during the summer break, and then, when they graduate at the end of their third year, to offer employment to those where the company and the students see the company working environment as suiting their needs.

    (As a student, he had himself done a second year undergraduate work placement with a different IT company.)

    His present employer, is a company producing high-end business software for major multinational corporations, government agencies, and large charities.



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  • Alan4: He joined this company with a graduate BSc. degree in computer science, and made a conscious decision NOT to study for a masters’ degree, but instead to do short specialist work related courses according to the requirements of the job at the time.
    In IT, he sees a masters’ degree as simply coming back two years or so behind the competition, with a general skill set less well tuned to the in-house requirements.
    By the age of thirty he was Head of Development and Technical Director; – albeit, the youngest director on the board.
    He now interviews students recruits.
    The company policy is to accept 2nd year undergraduate students on paid placements – arranged with the university, – during the summer break, and then, when they graduate at the end of their third year, to offer employment to those where the company and the students see the company working environment as suiting their needs.

    Commendably your son is a high achiever in a field (computer science) with marketable skills. His company facilitates a path that prolongs a career rather than adolescence.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with parents providing home housing and financial support to adult children during and after college under certain conditions and limitations. Sometimes “moving-back-in” may be necessary and beneficial. Brain plasticity can play a greater or lesser role in the full maturation process up to age 25 for most kids depending on the individual and her life experiences. Parents and young adults can use this knowledge to make informed decisions about individual readiness for independent living – most effectively when there is mutual agreement about proactive obligations. Usually, with the plethora of financial aid programs; work-study and roommate-housing arrangements available, kids are pretty much independent or nearly independent well before 25. In my view, I don’t see the feasibility of advising prospective parents to consider opening “extended adolescence savings accounts.” This meme is going nowhere.



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  • Melvin #27
    Nov 5, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Commendably your son is a high achiever in a field (computer science) with marketable skills. His company facilitates a path that prolongs a career rather than adolescence.

    I think the point was extending adolescent type learning abilities on into or through the 20s, to facilitate acquiring relevant skills.

    eg. ; I would think it unlikely that a science undergraduate, or post graduate, doing a supplementary course in being a company director, could expect to walk into a job using both of those skill sets on graduation.

    Focussed, on-the-job training courses on an extended time-scale, are the key, but require businesses which value this philosophy, rather than the type of outfits, which will try to poach trained staff from other companies, or expect schools and universities to have done ALL of their induction training jobs for them during regular courses.

    BTW: He also has a house and a daughter.



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  • In finding graduates to work with us we have had immense problems finding folk with a generalist and curious frame of mind overlaying some specific technical skills. Finding problems is of immense interest commercially because novel products and services may result.

    As expert systems empower all of us with skills we formerly had to contract to others, the real value adders are those with a rich understanding of societal needs, who are in a sense professional consumers themselves with keen observations of value.

    Working with expert systems, in my area of eco-tech we all talk physical entities in CAD, electronics in spice, heat and light, mechanical stress and magnetic and electrical fields in finite element analysis, spreadsheets, and Mathcad. We can do more things than ever we could before.

    People have different predispositions within this but an appreciation of the whole makes appropriate optimisation of the parts yield a much better value solution.

    Learning to work in teams without silo-thinking and much informal cross exchanging comes from people who are willing to stretch themselves beyond their (first) single degree specialisation.

    I argue that specialists, anyway, are becoming much more generalists to remain valuable.

    I also argue that education is first about creating an interior life for one’s self. Taking pleasure from the widest offerings of culture will be more sustaining for the longest time than acquisition of a mere skill.



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  • @OP – In a time when college graduates return to live under their parents’ roofs and top careers require years of internships and graduate degrees, the age of adulthood is receding, practically into the 30s.

    There are right-wing moves to try to make certain elite professions the prerogative of the children of the rich, by exploiting youngsters and their parents, where they seek employment in these sectors.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37874269

    Reforms aimed at banning unpaid internships have been blocked after Tory backbenchers and the government spoke against the proposals in the Commons.

    The draft legislation sought to ensure people were paid the minimum wage for workplace internships.

    The bill’s sponsor, Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke, said he wanted to “level the playing field” for youngsters.

    But the government said it could “undermine existing employment laws”.

    The proposed National Minimum Wage (Workplace Internships) Bill would require companies to pay interns at least the minimum wage for their work.

    The MP for Elmet and Rothwell, Mr Shelbrooke, said not paying interns had become the “acceptable face of unpaid labour in modern Britain” and should be banned.

    He warned that the use of unpaid interns by MPs, more than 20 of whom were advertising such roles, sent a message to UK business that “exploiting” young workers was acceptable.

    But the debate on Friday was forced to end after four-and-a-half hours of speeches, with Tory MPs David Nuttall and Philip Davies each speaking for more than an hour.

    While regularly pronouncing their “commitment” to opportunities for able children from all backgrounds (when discussing grammar schools, faith-schools, etc.), this really shows up the present Tory government in their true colours!



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  • prerogative of the children of the rich

    We started with work experience and then offered for our boys to work for free in the holidays. My eldest did get paid for his internship but I would have let them take it even if they didn’t pay. This would not have worked had it all been unpaid (except for my wife contacts and my sons proving themselves in the first place) so we used the system to get them at the front. My theory was to get them to rub shoulders with the rich and not see them as more worthy of their own abilities. They can both hold their own regardless of ‘class’ and haven’t inherited my fathers fear of authority which he passed on to me in a small amount. I still have a bit of fear until someone uses their position to remind me then I see red!!! 🙂



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  • Alan4: I think the point was extending adolescent type learning abilities on into or through the 20s, to facilitate acquiring relevant skills.

    And a good point that is. On-the-job training allows the adolescent student-worker to exercise skills and aptitudes brought to the job on day one, and requires the youth to learn new skills perhaps tailored to specific in-house operations but also desirable in the broader field and marketplace. Younger workers, properly selected, bring flexible, inquiring and innovative brains, reflected in a rapid learning curve, that enhance productivity for the company.

    When I read the article, I had a flashback several decades ago to a newspaper article that reported on the unintended consequences of Germany’s subsidized “free college” policy. The problem was illustrated by the case of a proverbial “professional student” who had been studying Anthropology for eight years procrastinating for still more advanced degrees while living on the government nickel. “The Cognitive Benefits of Being a Man-Child” of course deals with parental obligations to subsidize offspring’s “extended adolescence,” a term that more often serves as a euphemism for funding extended graduate education shielding a lost soul from the responsibilities of adult life. (Yes, I personally know many cases).



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  • Dan

    I don’t think I quite know what adolescence is and wasn’t kidding when I said that I may still be in “late adolescence.”

    Its very much a twentieth century invention and a term now starting to decline in use. To grow up or to grow to maturity. One of its reason’s for a decline might be this very understanding that maturity is now seen as a little theoretical and often deferred.

    You claim an adoloescent fifty. I think I peaked in maturity at 34 a little before marriage, but after a long enough string of relationships that did the growing up for me and rather more than academia managed for me. Kids safely launched and me (now) happily divorced, I feel quite regressed, squaring up to the return of childhood.

    I feel in my return to “adolesence” a playful indulgence. I credit it with a capacity to look anywhere and think anything. I always used to worry that my inventiveness would dry up, that my interest in the world would shrivel also. It actually feels the reverse. The varieties of experience that result make me ever hungrier for input and give the illusion, at least, of being still creative.

    I think our graduates too ofren are no longer fit for the purpose of leading from the front. I think education is often wasted on the young. None of it will go in with any reliability until they have had experience and found problems that they wish to own. Once you have a problem of your own you have a need for knowledge in a way that its absorption will be rewarding and permanent. University for me was learning how to learn. I was urged to stay and do research but I knew I had no motor for it. I needed a need.

    Education is what life should be mostly about. It should come in endless waves. It is surely one of the great pleasures…



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