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The Source: Changing Conceptions of Adulthood

Credit: Wikicommons http://bit.ly/1N523Oo


 When does childhood end and adulthood begin? 

Complaints that modern generations are more childlike than their predecessors are common--but UT History professor Steven Mintz argues that this is a good thing. His new book, The Prime of Life: A History of Modern Adulthood, explores the trend towards Peter Pan-youth.

At the turn of the 20th century, adulthood began when someone got married, joined the military, or had children. Mintz calls for a different use of these formative years. Instead of being dismayed by the slowed-down approach to a settled life, Mintz celebrates what he sees as a new and improved version of adulthood. 

Instead of focusing on beginning families and property ownership, today's adulthood is defined by financial independence and autonomy. While self-centered and exploratory twenties may go against grandparents' values, Mintz predicts that today's youth will end up much more fulfilled and much less medicated than youths of the past. 

Are you in favor of the Peter Pan approach? When did you finally (if at all) become an adult? 


  • Dr. Steven Mintz, professor of History at UT Austin and author of The Prime of Life
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