|Couples CE Comments Men in Therapy Gender Issues Mind/Body Attachment David Schnarch Brain Science Community of Excellence The Future of Psychotherapy Linda Bacon Challenging Cases Mindfulness William Doherty Ethics Future of Psychotherapy Etienne Wenger Wendy Behary Clinical Excellence Alan Sroufe Diets Symposium 2012 Trauma Attachment Theory Couples Therapy Clinical Mastery Narcissistic Clients Anxiety Mary Jo Barrett Great Attachment Debate|
|Bungee Families - Page 6|
High Riskers. Like my client Kelly, the recovering addict, High Riskers are emerging adults too fragile to manage life on their own. They have serious problems with addictions, PTSD, depressive episodes, and problems with the law—which necessitate ramped-up external support and structure. Isolation and too much independence can push them further toward the edge and place them at even more risk.
Jeremy, age 24, seemed to be managing his own life for a couple of years. He had a steady relationship, did carpentry odd jobs, and paid rent on a small house with his girlfriend. But then he got arrested for growing marijuana and was incarcerated for a few months, and his girlfriend moved back in with her parents. Now out on probation, he faces serious jail time if he messes up. His parents invited him home with open arms; the alternative is just too risky.
Emerging adults like Kelly and Jeremy are at a high risk of failing to become competent adults. Without support, they're likely to end up in a hospital or a prison, on the street, or worse. They don't have the skills, resources, strengths, or judgment to make it on their own, and they need the benefit of other adults' prefrontal cortices—those of their parents, therapists, families, and friends—to keep them safe until they grow one of their own.
Long-Haulers. Finally, there are, and have always been, emerging adults with chronic physical, emotional, and/or social problems, for whom long-term care is essential. Two generations ago, many of them ended up in institutions; today, even when group care is available, parents play an enduring nurturing role. Support groups in communities and virtual communities on the web abound for Long-Hauler families, helping them manage their emerging adults' disabilities. Therapists can play an important role, helping these families see that, even with their unique challenges, they're part of the new bungee family paradigm, too. They're less isolated than they used to be.
Long-Hauler parents need plenty of specialized support. For example, I've been seeing Matt's mother every couple of months for a few years, helping her manage her depression and stress. Matt, now 26, struggling with schizoaffective disorder, has been in and out of hospitals since he was 17. He's been hospitalized less frequently since his parents recognized the warning signs and decided that he should live with them, but it's a lot of work, and they need more respite than they can get. Still, his mom isn't as alone as she used to be: she knows plenty of other parents in similar circumstances, and with my support, she's confident she's doing the right thing for her son.
There's no question that the transition from adolescence to full-fledged adulthood lasts longer than it used to. Emerging adults are taking five to ten years longer than a generation ago to meet the common measures of adulthood: getting and keeping a job, finding a life partner, having a family, attaining some financial independence, taking on responsibilities, owning property, even just feeling grown up. There's some substance to the idea that age 30 now looks a lot like our age 20 did. It's common in the industrialized world, not just in the United States, and it opens up a window for both amazing self-discovery and a crushing sense of personal defeat.
An obvious cause of the difficulties experienced by young adults, and of the precipitous increase in the number of bungee families, is the deterioration of the world's economy. Hard times are particularly hard on emerging young adults because they've accrued such a dramatic increase in debt by the time they've come of age, compared with a generation ago. They're not the only ones getting buried in debt, of course, but debt is affecting them in particularly harsh ways. As discussed in depth by Anya Kamenetz in her book Generation Debt: Why Now Is a Terrible Time to Be Young, college students nationwide are graduating with an average of $20,000 in loans, plus thousands more in credit-card debt. They enter adult life paying backward, not saving forward. The job market for people under age 35, particularly those lacking college degrees, is increasingly unstable and inadequate as the cost of living rises along with unemployment rates that disproportionately punish them. Our faltering economy maintains an underclass of poorly educated young workers stuck with dead-end, low-wage service jobs as cashiers, burger flippers, sales clerks, and low-level tech-support geeks. For many, these jobs provide the only source of income, and in the current climate, their economic futures are bleak.