Who suffers the most from the trend of extended adolescence?

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

My friend Tracy sent me this interesting post. As I read it, I thought I was going to disagree with him about who is to blame for the mess he describes, but as we’ll see in a bit, I don’t.

Here’s his intro, which pretty much everyone agrees on:

The Five Traditional Milestones of Adulthood

Something magically happens between adolescence and young adulthood.  There are five traditional milestones of that mark entrance into adulthood that sociologists, psychologists, and the general population have used as a proxy to determine when someone has reached that tipping point of maturity.  It is at this time adolescence is shed and emotional maturity comes to full fruition.

These are:

  • Leaving Home
  • Becoming Financially Independent
  • Completing School
  • Marrying
  • Starting a Family

He has some examples to illustrate who is and isn’t mature:

Examples of Adults:

  • A 25-year old teacher with a college degree, who works full time, is married, has a child, owns her own home, and pays for her own living expenses
  • A 65-year old janitor with a high school diploma, who works full time, is married or widowed, has children, owns his own home, and pays for his own living expenses

Examples of Extended Adolescence: 

  • A 30-year old who has part of their rent and bills covered by parents, endlessly enrolls in colleges or universities seeking additional degrees or credentials, single, without children.
  • A 45-year old high-school dropout living on social welfare programs who spends his days getting drunk in bars

OK, then he talks about who suffers the most from “extended adolescence”:

What is particularly interesting is the interaction between biology and the paradigm shift that has occurred with so much of the younger generation suffering from extended adolescence. Women have a specific, limited window of time in which they can genetically reproduce and to which they are attractive to potential mates.  This so-called “biological clock”, written into the code at the very deepest core of our DNA, puts a limit on childbearing for females.

  • Fertility: Female fertility peaks at 20 to 30 years old.  After 30 years old, fertility drops by 20%.  After 35, it drops 50%.  After 40, it drops 95%.  As for in vitro fertilization, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine states that women in their early 40’s have, on average, only a 3% to 5% chance of having a baby through this method.
  • Down Syndrome: At 25, a woman has about 1 chance in 1,250 of having a baby with Down Syndrome; at age 30, a 1-in-1,000 chance; at age 35, a 1-in-400 chance; at age 40, a 1-in-100 chance; and at 45, a 1-in-30- chance.
  • Miscarriage: Only 9 percent of recognized pregnancies for women aged 20 to 24 end in miscarriage; 15 percent of women aged 25-30 miscarry; 40 percent of women over 40 do and more than 50 percent miscarry at 42 years of age.

These limitations do not apply to men (an 80 year old man can still reproduce).  Men have virtually no opportunity cost to waiting to find a mate.  If they want to spend their twenties working their way up their field, putting money in the bank, playing video games, and hanging out with friends, they can always wake up one morning and decide they are ready to settle down, get married, and have kids.  As such, the biological cost of extended adolescence is significantly and substantially higher for women than it is for men.  Females suffer from a Mother Nature-induced “use it or lose it” policy.

So, should men be expected to ride to the rescue of women who are the end of the their fertility period? Should men make things “work out” for women who refused to marry when they were in their 20s, when they were fertile and attractive?


This fear was encapsulated by Kay Hymowitz in a book called Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys.

[…]As one reviewer somewhat critically noted of the book, “Hymowitz wants the child-men [those suffering from extended adolescence] to man up so that women don’t have to become spinsters or “choice mothers” at the expense of their careers. Might women alter their own behavior? “[T]he economic and cultural changes are too embedded, and, for women especially, too beneficial to reverse.” So the answer is no. Although it is women who are becoming disenchanted with the way things are, and although it is women who have created this situation, it is [in her opinion] men who ought to change.  And they are to change precisely when women are ready.”

The reviewer is correct because men are acting rationally within the confines the new paradigm.  In today’s world, men are presented no social, financial, emotional, or reproductive advantage by adjusting their own life to the ticking of a potential mate’s biological clock.  It is for the woman, to borrow a phrase, “too damn bad”.  It may not be fair, but in a finite world, there is an opportunity cost to every decision we make.  That has always been one of the central themes of this blog.  Incentive systems drive nearly everything in civilization from the type of people we attract into certain industries to the kind of behavior we reward.  The incentive system for men has changed and society now reflects this reality.

I actually blame the pastors and parents for allowing women to delay marriage, and then blaming men for not marrying women who pass their fertility date. Pastors and parents don’t challenge young women’s feelings with the truth about what she ought to be doing in order to grow up early and attract a man during the time when she is younger and fertile. They want to let women decide what to do at every point in their lives, based on their feelings “in the moment”. The refusal to make judgments leads to women having delusions like “I can have children when I’m 35” and “I can change a bad man into a good man after I marry him” and “a degree in English is as worthwhile as a degree in computer science”.

Feminism has a lot to do with it. Women used to be taught by pastors and parents that they should choose chaste men with good jobs, work histories and savings. But feminism says that men don’t have any special provider role, and now the main things that women look for in a man is that he is attractive, fun, and lets her do whatever she feels like doing – no matter how crazy and irrational it is.

One woman recently told me that a female friend of ours, who is dating a penniless 28-year-old student, who has never worked a day in his life need not worry about him. She said “if they marry, he’ll drop out of school and start to work and provide for her”. She is 33, and she thinks that marrying a full-time student is a good idea, because he enthusiastically supports her crazy plans to pursue fun, thrills and travel into her mid-30s. She tells him that God is telling her (through her feelings) to pursue fun and thrills through travel – a position she held when she still an atheist in college, mind you. And she intends to keep up the traveling for as long as she can, even if she isn’t out of debt until she turns 40. And he, in response, is both unwilling to, and incapable of, questioning her plan from a practical point of view. She likes that he lets her fly the plane, even it it means she’ll crash it and kill them both. There is something mentally wrong with a man who stays in school until he is 30, and thinks that he is fine to be in a relationship with a woman. Only men who show aptitude for the provider role should be taken seriously by women.

Pastors and parents don’t dare hurt the self-esteem of sensitive little girls by telling them to study hard things, get full-time jobs, move out of the house and focus on marrying a man who can provide during their 20s. And what happens when the “fun-thrills-travel until you’re 35” plan explodes and no one wants to marry her? Well, then, all pastors and parents who applauded when she delayed marriage blame men for not wanting to marry her. But men don’t marry 35-year-old women. At age 35, the value proposition of marriage to men has been greatly diminished by age and infertility. (Or worse: by promiscuity, cohabitation, divorce, and children from other men) There is a window of opportunity for a woman to invest in a man with her youth, beauty, support and encouragement. Once that window is closed, a man who has a good education, a good resume and good amount of savings has no obligation to marry. All the battles have already been fought as well as they are going to be, and without a woman there to help him. He doesn’t have any emotional connection to a woman that would cause him to either get married or stay married, because of the help he received when it really mattered. Believe me when I tell you that single women today are very intentional about passing up good men so that they can be “free” to travel and have fun. They know exactly what they are doing, but hope to somehow escape the responsibility for their choices later.

13 thoughts on “Who suffers the most from the trend of extended adolescence?”

  1. In part I agree with this post, in part I think it’s rigid and harsh. I am a single man hoping to one day raise a family, and I have suspected that women are being deliberately elusive. It’s very hard to receive commitment and I think there is cultural pressure against it. I resent sometimes a couple that keep delaying marriage and children. It gets ridiculous, and I think I might be the odd one out because I am a serious man. As for the harshness, I disagree that a woman over 35 is unmarriageable. Also, someone spending a long time in school might be committed to an academic career or to medicine. Also, degrees in the humanities can lead to gainful employment and can be difficult.


  2. Given that many K-12 institutions, colleges, and university have extremely lax guidelines, curricula, &c., I find it hard to believe that those who “endlessly enroll in colleges or universities seeking additional degrees or credentials” are the ones at fault.


    1. Oh I know what they say, but you have to look at their actions in their 20s and early 30s. If a woman who is in debt $20,000 and has no resume flies off to Europe at age 31 and stays there 2 years as a missionary, you can tell that she is not interested in marriage. But her words will say that she is not interested in fun or travel, and wants to get married “some day”.


      1. In general, you can tell a lot about a person’s *actions and *where the person spends her money (the latter being a point that Haddon Robinson brings up in “The Testimony of a Checkbook”). Sure, there are exceptions (like if the person was raped or molested at any phase in life, and/or the person wasn’t sure whether she was called to be single or was dating a guy who was living a double-life [e.g., in the case of a high profile son of a television family with nearly 20 kids] or whatever).

        And sure, being single “a little later in life” a pretty complex issue. Just before the time I (finally) met my wife, some friends were telling me of another very godly Christian woman, who was 29-30, who would have been a great match for me. However, she was very involved her own church (and likewise, I was very involved with my church) so our paths never crossed. We ended up marrying different people and are happy with our choices.

        There are also systemic issues (i.e., what women do reacts to what men do, and what men do reacts to what women do, and also what women do shapes what men will do and vice versa).

        I note around the day after you made your post, Anna Broadway (a single fairly famous MK writing under a pseudonym) mentioned this link:


      1. The problem I see with the women I know is that they express lofty desires about the future with their words, but their actions are all Sex in the City, have fun and thrills and travel “in the moment”. My most frequent question asked to women who are doing stupid things for fun is this “what do you expect to achieve by doing this?” They have no answer, it’s just fun. But they all express lofty desires about getting married “some day”. The girl I mentioned who is 20K in debt with a resume like a colander. There is ZERO connection between future aspirations and current actions.

        I should say that I mentor a half-dozen young ladies, they are all in STEM, and none of them likes fun and thrills, much less travel.


  3. Is “extended adolescence” a big trend in the US? It seems to be complained about a lot on the internet, but I don’t see lots of evidence of it in my part of the world (in Northern Ireland). There are a few people who behave like this, but they are a tiny minority.


    1. In America, there are cultural forces at work that cause children to be unsupervised / unguided by responsible adults. Our public schools are (in the main) run and taught by people with no education or practical experience, and their ignorance is passed on to the kids. Parents are often too busy working to buy more and better stuff to notice or care. Nothing in the mainstream media or entertainment industry does anything to stop the indoctrination.


    2. Yes. I know some who have traced its origins to the Civil War era (e.g. John Taylor Gatto); however, most accounts begin with the pop culture of the 1950’s (when the image of the teen was heavily influenced by Hollywood).


  4. I’m a female who is 37 and wants to be married but isn’t and never has been. Based on your calculations, I blew it during my 20s and brought this on myself – just like all the other fake ladies who pretend they cared for marriage. I can’t speak for those other women, but here’s me: getting married & having kids was very important to me, beginning in my teenage years. I studied to become a nurse (not a physician, my original goal) because I desired a course of study that would end faster so I could have a family ASAP & be fully available to it. Then I got raped. I developed PTSD – being triggered by dating situations in particular. Not ideal for a marriage seeking person. It took the entirety of my 20s & most of my 30s to recover from it; there were no “Sex & the City” adventures for me. If you’re able, please try to imagine how callous your post sounds to a person in my shoes.


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