Because life is a series of edits

Leaving, Cleaving

In Humanity, Marriage on October 6, 2006 at 2:00 am

I (very) briefly researched the topic of twenty-somethings and whether, when, and how they tend to leave or cleave in marriage, as living at home and marrying later seems all the rage among twenty- and even thirty-somethings in our 21st century American culture.

From my own observation, it seems 30 is the new 20. Traditional expectations that a person will seek and experience an increasing degree of independence (physically, emotionally, financially) from his or her parents and “leave and cleave” to another similarly-aged person in marriage in one’s early-to-mid twenties have greatly shifted to one’s mid-to-late twenties and even beyond.

It’s as if adolescence (defined in the New Oxford American Dictionary as “the period following the onset of puberty during which a young person develops from a child into an adult” ) has been put on hold…or at least stretched a great deal from its normally-thought-of parameters.

Part of this stretching of adolescence (itself a non-existent delineation before the twentieth century) stems from not treating young adults as, well, adults. According to a 2003 study by the National Opinion Research Center, most Americans today don't consider a person an adult until age 26, or until she or he has finished school, landed a full-time job, and begun to raise a family.

This phenomenon leads to (or is it the result of?) what researcher Pamela Paul calls “permaparenting,” the most blatant manifestation of which is the phenomenon of boomerang kids. According to the 2000 census, 4 million people between the ages of 25 and 34 live with their folks. And yet, as Francis K. Goldscheider writes:

“Much of the research literature views nest leaving by young adults primarily as a normal life course transition. In particular, early departure from the parental home long before marriage has been treated as a beneficial response to the long-term growth in economic resources-a response that increases privacy for adjacent generations. The link between being an adult and residential independence has reinforced the sense that anything that speeds the process is beneficial. Even as a response to problematic relationships that result from changes in family structure, young people's early leaving has been interpreted as the result of the earlier development of ‘a sense of self as separate from family, thus making it easier for children to initiate the transition to independence.’”

If twenty- and even thirty-year-olds are still living with their parents, odds are they’re not getting married and learning to leave and cleave in marriage. And if they’re not getting married and learning to leave and cleave in marriage, odds are they’re missing one of the better and effective means of God’s sanctification for them.

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  1. Good thoughts, Amy. Personally, I was always more introverted, but I also felt fairly independent from my folks and was ready to leave home at 16. It seems to me one’s experience at home growing up has greater influence than one’s personality does, but I have no hard research to back this up. Anybody else have any thoughts/experiences to share?

  2. With a perfect case study in my brother-in-law, I can see how true this statement is. I’ve noticed in our situation that not only does living at home make it harder for the child to “leave and cleave”, it’s make it harder for the parents to let them.
    I also wonder how much of a person’s personality towards independence making leaving a natural process. A child who has always been more dependent on their parents may always be whether or not they live at home.
    We read a book during our marriage counseling that really highlighted this concept from the Bible and allowed Tim to establish boundaries from his parents. I don’t know if it happens in every marriage counseling, but it should be.
    I think that makes sense, just wanted to say that I agree with your post and that I’ve been thinking about it this last week.

  3. You’re right on missing out on sanctification. I did a kind of experiment on datng web sites and compared the Christian ones to the non Chrisitan ones. The non Christian guys were so much nicer! They just talked so nicely and were so much more interested in getting to know a girl than men I’ve encountered since I’ve been a believer. I’ve come to see how Christian guys don’t talk to us women hardly at all! They aren’t even friendly usually. And that’s Christian guys lots of places, not just on the dating web sites. What has the church done to make men this way? I feel frustrated because Christian single men hardly talk to me as a single woman. Since my job as a woman is to wait, then I am being prevented from learning more about relationships in a way that God intended.

  4. Dating Websites?!!! What do you expect men to do on dating websites? Fact is non Christian men have One objective and will stop short of nothing to get it, that’s human nature. They are so “nice” in hopes that you will put out after a certain amount of niceness or money spent. It’s not their fault because that’s how they’ve been conditioned. When those guys find out after a few serious dates that you’re not so easy, 75% won’t be so nice anymore…. you will be labeled a “tease”. You can blame modern non Christian society men AND women for this wonderful dating game.
    The Christians I know are all pretty nice. Maybe you need to be a little more outgoing.
    If you get involved in some E/C activities, volunteer to be in in more high profile outspoken activities for your passion, and also express some intellectual interest in those single Christian men I’m sure you will catch their eye.

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