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Research extends adolescence to24 years...

By DAISY OKOTIA new report has emerged with findings which say that adolescence now extends to 24 years, six years more than when adolescence was thought to end.This shift, according to the report, published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health Journal, 2018, is attributable to societal and lifestyle changes.

For instance, young people are taking longer tomove out of home due to delayed financial independence and delay in getting married and having children. Basically, the hitherto known markers of adulthood are shifting, and with the shift come new definition of terms, what researchers are now calling extended dependency and delays in role transition.

Should there be a definitive age that comes wrapped in a shiny gift box labelled adulthood or should adulthood depend on an individuals circumstances? What does this delay in role transitions mean and should such delays have any bearing on how we view ourselves or have any validity in the general scheme of things?Well, there is a point to these new research findings.Owing to the new dynamics such as later completion of education - or young people just opting to remain in school longer - getting into stable jobs much later (mostly due to the soaring unemployment rates) or even being unable to fully support oneself by 18 years, the age of adulthood has become subject of debate, debate that we must be willing to dissect as a society.

How does one navigate the space between getting an identification card that declares them adults able to support themselves and the reality that they are actually not able to support themselves? And does this report by any chance reflect our realities here in Kenya?This week, we speak to young people who gave us their perspective about (emerging) undercurrents in this new research.What really is the definition of adulthood for these youth in light of the current challenges of unemployment in Kenya?EDGAR WATTANGA, 25BUSINESSMANAdulthood is about self-realisation and self-care, the point where you get to understand yourself mentally, physically and spiritually, says Edgar.

He started living on his own right after high school when he turned 19, an experience he says prompted him to mature faster.I realised that I wanted more than what was at home ndash I wanted to own things, I wanted more freedom and I generally just desired to build my independence early in life and in that process, I discovered that I was an adult, he says.

Businessman Edgar Wattanga during the interview at Nation Centre on May 5, 2018. PHOTO| KANYIRI WAHITOFor Edgar, once an individual is past the legal age of 18 and is able to support himself, adulthood begins.My parents only provided me with absolute necessities such as food, shelter and school fees when I was growing up, so I realised quite early that any additional comforts that I wanted, such as a smartphone or luxuries such as going to the movies, I had to work for and earn them for myself, he says.

Edgar is a bit skeptical about the report that shifts the age at which adulthood begins.If this age can shift, then is there really such a thing as adulthood? If we wake up tomorrow and another research says that people remain adolescents until 30, what then? he poses.

RITA MERCY, 25ENTREPRENEURRita believes she became an adult when she turned 19, the age at which she joined university and moved out of her parents home.I also took up certain responsibilities such as paying my water and electricity bills.

My parents sent me a regular allowance, but this was not enough to take care of my needs, so I started a business to supplement my allowance, she explains.The actual realisation that she was an adult came when she realised that her parents no longer supervised her.

When I was younger, most of the things were done for me, such as having my clothes washed and planning for my day. At some point, these responsibilities were thrust at me and it was expected that I would do a good job, she says.

Entrepreneur Rita Mercy during the interview at Nation Centre on May 2, 2018. PHOTO| KANYIRI WAHITOThis new definition of adulthood, Rita says, leaves a lot to be desired although she agrees that upbringing and social expectations on an individual play a big role when it comes to how one navigates certain things in life.Some parents do not want to let go of their children.

They are afraid to let them go out there and hustle. Conversely, some young people fear responsibilities.

The reality is that if you are living under your parents roof, you remain a child because there are certain rules that you have to live by which might hinder your adult side from fully flourishing, she says.Rita is convinced that there is no definite age when one becomes an adult, it all depends on how fast an individual is willing to grow.

BOYANI MOMANYI, 23According to Boyani, adulthood is the point where one can take care of their financial needs, exhibit mental maturity, which can be gauged by the decisions that one makes, not being wholly dependent on ones parents and starting to carefully consider the future.I realised that I was an adult when I joined university.

I admitted myself, banked my school fees and found myself a hostel the fact that I was still quite new in the city not withstanding. It was a challenge which made me begin to realise that my family had started to view me as an adult, she says.

But Boyani still feels that there is another level of what the term adult really means, which she is yet to achieve, so she tends to look at older people as the adults.University of Nairobi student Boyani Momanyi during the interview at Nation Centre on May 2, 2018. PHOTO| KANYIRI WAHITOSometimes I find that I hold back from fully stepping into the grown up shoes in front of me because I feel that older people with more experience are in a far better position to step into these shoes.

But I would say my family did a great job of getting me ready for primary adult roles such as cleaning after myself, managing the money that I am given to ensure that I cater for the most important things while making good decisions for myself. In this respect therefore, I feel like an adult.

Also, the fact that I find myself giving my younger brother advice from time to time contributes to my feeling like an adult, she says.It is the bigger adult things such as actually looking for money or paying rent or looking for a job that gives her jitters and makes her uncertain about whether she can comfortably call herself an adult.

I do not also feel I am prepared for adult transitions such as dating, and sometimes I feel that my peers know more, which makes me feel that I am not adult enough.For Boyani, adulthood does not come at any specific age.

It depends on how one was raised, which means that some people become adults earlier while others reach this threshold much later.ROSE ODARY, 23Rose considers herself an adult.

She believes that she has been an adult since she turned 14.I took on adult responsibilities when I was very young ndash I started helping to care for my younger siblings from an early age, and this made me mature faster, she says.For Rose, her markers of adulthood are financial independence and emotional maturity.

I do not currently have a job and live with my elder brother, but I run a small business to earn some money so that I am not entirely dependent on my parents. The business also enables me to send my younger siblings money for their upkeep - I feel I should be able to do some of these things for them because I am their older sibling.

For me, taking charge of certain responsibilities is adulthood, she says.According to her, emotional maturity, is about being stable where ones feelings and thoughts are concerned and being able to distinguish between wants and needs.

It also means being present for ones friends when they are going through challenges.University of Nairobi student Rose Odary during the interview at Nation Centre on May 2, 2018. PHOTO| DENNIS ONSONGOThe ability to be a true friend, and I am not talking about friendships that are forged from peer pressure-driven acts such as skipping class to go to a concertmdashis also a sign of maturity because it is an indication that someone has grown up and is willing to interrogate issues and think critically about their future without being blinded by negative peer pressure, she says.

Here is what she says of this new report:This report does not make sense to me because many factors affect individuals, and it is quite difficult to put people into a homogeneous group and label them as one. Ones upbringing and ones mindset, financial independence, having friends who challenge you to be better are some of the factors that are unique to individuals.

I also believe that adulthood is a phase, rather than a specific age, and that it is possible to be 30 years and still not consider yourself an adult or be 21 and consider yourself an adult, she says.That said, Rose still admits to needing a firmer adult hand to remind her to stay on course.

For example, she finds herself staying up late into the night to watch movies when she has a morning class the following day, an aspect she says borders on indecisiveness that is not so mature.Despite this, I strongly consider myself an adult, she says.

BARAKA MWAURA, 26EVENTS PRODUCERBaraka believes that adulthood comes with responsibilities that call for taking action and a readiness to negotiate challenging situations.Firstborns in particular may find that they have to take on adult responsibilities much earlier because they are expected, from an early age, to be in charge at home especially when the parents are not around, he argues.

For Baraka, better time management, handling change in a calmer manner and learning to prioritise when it comes to financial spending are key indications that one has become an adult.He explains that when he was much younger, his parents took deliberate measures to prepare him for adult responsibilities such as being left in charge of his siblings when they were away and ensuring that garbage was collected and bills were paid.

He was also given pocket money, which he was expected to prudently use.Businessman Baraka Mwaura during the interview at Nation Centre on May 5, 2018. PHOTO| KANYIRI WAHITOI realised I was an adult when I turned 23. To begin with, I graduated from university and started to make my own decisions.

It is then that I realised that in real life, every day is an exam about managing time and friendship. I also got a job at around this time and moved out of home.

Suddenly, I had rent to pay and food to buy and I had to quickly learn financial management otherwise I would blow my money and suffer, he says.Baraka however feels that adulthood is very subjective, and he would be hesitant to peg it on factors such as having a job or moving out of home.

If you lose your job for example, does that take your adulthood away? No, you just face it and look for other means to survive as you try to find another job. You do not stop being an adult simply because you are unable to pay rent.

The older you get, the better you captain your ship and realise the role that you have in steering this ship towards the right direction, he says.Dr James Kariuki is a lecturer in the department of Sociology and Social Work at the University of NairobiIs the age of adulthood actually shifting or is the shift only happening to accommodate material realities?Becoming an adult is heavily dependent on an individual being linked to the cash economy, either through a job or business.

So I can say that yes, money plays a role when it comes to whether an individual can be considered an adult or not.Having economic power means that one is able to take certain responsibilities that define adulthood such as getting a residence of their own and taking care of personal bills.

But the concern should not be age, rather, the responsibilities that go with this.So you are saying that there is no definite age when one becomes an adult?No, there is no age called adulthood.

Adolescence is a bridge between childhood and adulthood. And while the beginning of adolescence is quite clear, the end of adolescence is very blurry and the age differs from one individual to another.

What are the markers of adulthood?First of all, financial independence, getting ones own place of residence, rejecting parental control and just thinking long-term ndash having children and planning for the future. There is also the balance between individual needs and social expectations.

Do you think parents have any role to play in this?Yes, parenting styles have a role to play. These days many families have just two or three children.

Such parents have the tendency to want to keep their children at home for a longer period, but there are also children who fear responsibilities and will want to cling to their parents for as long as possible.
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Publication:Daily Nation, Kenya (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:May 11, 2018
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