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Now, Failure is Mark of Success

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

At the risk of hurting the feelings of the hundred or so publicists who e-mail me press releases each week, I'll confess I hardly ever read them.

It's unlikely I'll write a column about how to keep the kids "learning and active during the holidays" (this is a problem that needs an expert?), or a new book on how to "unspoil" your child (just say no).

So I must send kudos to the publicist who wrote this eye-catching opening line: "What if the 'failure to launch' is actually an intelligent response to the challenges that today's young adults face?"

Perhaps it's the cultural observer in me that clicked open the e-mail, or more likely, the fact that my eldest daughter will graduate from college in the spring. Suffice to say, the words "failure to launch" and "intelligent response" used in the same sentence struck me as at least curious.

Turns out there's a new book that asserts today's 20-somethings are taking a "slower path to adulthood" and claims this is a good thing for them and for American society generally.

The book, "Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood, and Why It's Good for Everyone," by Richard Settersten, Ph.D., and Barbara E. Ray, is based on "a decade of cutting-edge scientific research conducted by the MacArthur Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood."

Among the findings, the press kit mentions "a slower transition to adulthood is often just the ticket in today's tough economy. Young adults who finish college and delay marriage and child-rearing get a much better start in life than those who leave the nest too early, settling for low-paying jobs and having children at a young age."

The research also apparently says that "helicopter parents" aren't such a bad thing, since those who are involved in the lives of their young adult children offer economic advantages and mentoring.

The authors describe two kinds of 20-something adults — "swimmers" who take a slower path to adulthood and "treaders" who move more quickly into adult responsibilities, sometimes with "consequences that can be devastating not only to them but to the future health and success of our country."

Naturally, you can see where this study leads. According to the authors, "The great shake-ups that are going on in the transition to adulthood are transforming American life, and the reverberations will be felt by everyone. These changes will demand new responses from governments, families, and society."

New responses from governments? I guess leaving the "kids" on their parent's health care until age 26 was just the beginning.

The research behind this book is "scientific," and included interviews with nearly 500 young people. Too bad for the authors that they didn't include my 20-something daughter in their research.

When I forwarded the press release to her, she responded, "Does your generation really think mine doesn't have it together to such an extent that they're using 'science' to justify keeping us at home for as long as possible?"

"The Great Depression was harder than we have it now. The economy had actually tanked, we were between world wars, and they didn't have cell phones or computers, or commercial airlines, so everyone was way less connected. Yet people married and started families and took care of themselves because they were adults. Do they have so little faith in how they have prepared us that they think we can't make our own way?"

Makes a mom proud to know the supposed "slow path" insults her adult daughter.

Like my daughter, I can't help believing that the "slow path to adulthood" is actually the fast lane to a more dependent, infantile society. And there's no way that's good for anyone.

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