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'Adultescents' - scolded for not taking options that aren't there

By Kate Crawford - posted Friday, 4 June 2004


It's time for a confession: I'm 31, I'm not married and while I have succumbed to temptation and bought an iPod, I don't own a house. The AustraliaScan survey by Quantum Market Research quoted in the Herald on Tuesday says that makes me an "adultescent".

Putting aside the careless violence to the English language contained in that piece of marketing jargon, there is much in the research to make the toes curl.

Perhaps it's the sting of recognition, but what is missing in the latest reports about the so-called "Me" generation is any attempt to analyse the broader economic reasons why this group is not engaging in the time-honoured traditions associated with coming of age.

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First, let's look at the claims made about adultescents. Quantum's data says they are in their late 20s or early 30s but they think like teenagers. This means that we may live at home, and instead of making serious commitments to mortgages or families, we fritter our cash away on designer clothes, travel, phones and music gadgets.

Chillingly, we have little respect for the labour involved with fame and think that it can be achieved without much effort.

This, no doubt, is a clear sign of our disrespect for the workaday pop stars and TV personalities who used to have it really tough before reality television arrived.

According to the author of Quantum's report, David Chalke, it's about the "indulgence of me now" attitude: "They don't save because they don't aspire to settle down. They don't think in terms of a career - just a series of jobs because they get bored easily. They don't invest, because they want instant gratification."

If you listen closely, David Chalke, you can hear 1.5 million "adultescents" laughing under their breath at these condescending generalisations. Allow me to suggest another possible interpretation.

This is a generation with much less economic power than the baby boomers, and even the generation Xers.

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We no longer have the privilege of free education, we're locked out of the housing market and we don't experience the kind of job security that was common in Australia in the late-20th century.

And if a lack of financial security wasn't enough to make us hesitant to marry, the boomers showed us just how badly traditional relationship models can go wrong. We are a generation who realise that certain doors have been closed to us, so we're rapidly moving toward the alternative exits.

But parading "adultescents" as a generation of dim-witted pleasure-seekers too busy watching Big Brother to realise that that they'll soon be disenfranchised and toothless is a well-worn story.

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This article was first published in The Sydney Morning Heraldon May 27 2004.



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About the Author

Kate Crawford is a lecturer in media and communications at the University of Sydney and is the author of Adult Themes: Rewriting the Rules of Adulthood (Pan Macmillan, 2006).

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