Are today’s young adults struggling for too long, unable to leave the nest after years of helicopter parenting—or are they just reliving the same issues that previously stumped their elders?
New York Times magazine writer Robin Marantz Henig and her daughter Samantha Henig, an editor at the New York Times, try to answer these questions in their new book, 20something: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck? TIME spoke with them recently about the so-called Millennial generation and its discontents.
I was very glad to see that in your book, you consider 20somethings in two ways— one that you title “Same as It Ever Was” and the other “Now Is New.” Many books and articles on this topic assume everything is unprecedented, but complaints about “these kids today” go back at least to Plato.
RH: Our primary theme is that the 20s are times of making decisions and there are all sorts of doors that you have to start closing. I think it’s more interesting in a way that it’s always been like this. It’s so easy to forget when you are in your 50s and 60s what things really were like when you were young. But yes, these complaints are eternal.
So, what really is different now?
RH: The biggest change now that permeates a lot of aspects of young people’s lives are changes in technology. There are two kinds: the always-connected internet stuff. There’s also reproductive technology, which because of its [media ubiquity] is something people are taking for granted.
Young women are not at all feeling the age 30 deadline that my peers did [for having children]. The lack of feeling that pressure pushes back the urgency about accomplishing lots of things, not only marrying and having children, but also [issues] about career and where you want to live.