Precocious Children and Adults Afraid of Ageing: The Expanded Adolescence

Children grow up too fast, young people are long to acquire their autonomy and adults do not want to grow old: as a matter of fact, adolescence is expanding dramatically. The phenomenon is catching on, fueled by the social demands and media pressure that can stun even the most reluctant to comply with those dictates.

Childhood has lost many protections: kids have access to violent contents on television, pornography on the internet, chatting with strangers on social networks. The age of first love relationships and sexual experiences becomes increasingly early. Pupils at primary school dress like their older brothers, they toy with latest mobile phones and are into technology. They celebrate their birthdays in clubs dedicated to children, but inspired by adults’ ones. The entertainment proposals are uniforming the different age groups’ leisures.

Young people, on the other hand, do not seem inclined to make the leap that could lead them to move away from the safe nest of their parents. Economic crisis and insecurity lead young adults in their twenties and thirties to be reluctant to go to live on their own, to take on the commitment and responsibilities of a mortgage and the establishment of a new family. The first pregnancy is carried out later and, for a number of women, it remains the only one, causing birth rate plunge.

As regards mature people, many tend to pursue an obsessive ideal of youth, determined not to give way to inclement time passing. Men in andropause fall in love with girls in order to confirm their manhood. Insecure women pose as teens and choose inappropriate clothing and exasperated cosmetic surgery.

The picture of the sociological phenomenon of expanded adolescence is perhaps more sad that grotesque, because it tells us, eloquently, more about our fears that about our vanity. It seems that a deep sense of inadequacy poisons every season of life, particularly mortifying the innocence of childhood and the wisdom of old age.

Maybe, somehow, all these age groups share the pivotal feature of adolescence: the heroic struggle for the acquisition of identity and values to identify with. Certainly, in the past, tradition provided the reference points to guide generations to the achievement of goals tailored to the particular stage of their life. Freedom is a valuable asset, as long as one knows how to make sensible use of it. Today, in a certain way, the idea that everything is allowed makes our goals unstructured, it confuses us, and leaves us at the mercy of the almost unanimous, both desirable and deleterious, aspiration to experience an eternal youth, in an illusory vertigo of happiness. This leveling of desires spoils the minds more than any wrinkle will never furrow the faces.

Life is dynamic by definition, and our attempts to interfere with its course have something Freudian about of which we should take into account honestly. A resistance, that is as fierce as vain, to a natural and inevitable transition, just makes the process more difficult. Every age has its wealth and it is only accepting and appreciating it that we will be able to become people instead of characters and we will be less intimidated by the idea of change.

Marzia VaccaroI Like Italy

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