Parents’ failure to enforce boundaries and unwillingness to chastise children has led to a generation of ‘infantilised millennials’, according to a sociology professor.
In his book, Why Borders Matter, Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at Kent University, says a lack of clear boundaries has created a childlike generation.
Not chastising children or using moral-based judgments ‘deprives them of a natural process’ of fighting against parental rules and boundaries, according to Furedi.
He says children develop by pushing against boundaries given to them by parents and society, and over three or four generations those parameters have weakened.
This has led to millennials in their twenties acting the way they did in their teenage years and refusing to embrace adulthood, he explains in his book.
Millennials were born between 1980 and 1994, so the oldest of the generation are now 40 and the youngest are in their mid-twenties.
In his new book, Why Borders Matter, Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at Kent University, says a lack of clear boundaries has created a childlike generation
The book, Why Borders Matter, was inspired in part by the response to Donald Trump’s 2016 ‘Build the Wall’ campaign slogan.
Furedi said there was an extreme response from some communities, who painted the idea of national borders as ‘oppressive, discriminatory, exploitative and violent’.
While preparing for a talk on borders, the sociologist was researching identity crisis in children and realised a lack of boundaries could be why children are increasingly behaving in a confused and defensive way.
This prevailing anti-border narrative appears to have a link to a wider change in society over the past few decades, and that is what he set out to study.
PEOPLE ARE HITTING KEY LIFE MILESTONES LATER
Millennials, born between 1980 and 1994, and GenZ, born 1995 to 2010, are hitting key life milestones later than any other generation before them.
The Office For National Statistics (ONS) examined data on milestones between 1997 and 2017.
Age 19: Start full-time work
More than half of people start full-time work at 19 but 20 years ago this happened at 16 or 17 and is the result of people staying in school longer.
Age 23: Move out of parents house
People are moving into their own homes later – now it isn’t until age 23 that over half are out on their own.
It was 21-years-old two decades ago.
Age 27: Moving in with a partner
More than 50 per cent of 27 year olds are living with a partner and this has stayed relatively static over 20 years.
Age 29: Having a baby
The age women have their first child has increased over the past 40 years.
It has gone from from 27 in 1997 to 29 in 2017 when the latest stats were compiled and shared by the ONS.
Age 32: Getting married
People are now getting married much later, going up to 32 from 27 over the past two decades.
Age 34: Own your own home
It isn’t until the age of 34 that more than half of people own their own property, ONS data revealed.
This has gone up by eight years from 26 two decades ago.
The ONS found that millennials and Gen Z were doing most things later in life, putting key milestones off.
This also included the point when they become financially independent and start thinking about retirement.
‘Every single boundary that used to give meaning to life was being called into question by the same people who hated national borders,’ he told MailOnline.
‘One of the things about developing as a child is you kick off against your parents and build your inner strength and confidence.’
This is leading to a generation of adults who ‘don’t want to grow up’, or if they do grow up are doing so in their 30s rather than their 20s, he said.
This is backed up by data from the Office for National Statistics who found many people are hitting key milestones such as marriage or home ownership later in life.
British people are starting full-time jobs, moving out of their parents’ homes and having children later than any previous generation, figures suggest.
In the book, Furedi goes into the issue of a lack of boundaries in personal life between parents and children, public and private and even national borders.
‘Every border, even borders between children and adults are now seen in a dubious way and the historic boundary separating children and adults is called into question,’ he said.
‘It became very clear to me that any form of cultural distinction that has given meaning to human experience is now being contested.’
Furedi says all is not lost, and things can be reversed, but people first need to relearn the ‘art of drawing borders’ in the personal, political and national sphere.
He said ‘we must take the question of moral judgement more seriously’, including learning how to make moral judgements and enter a debate on a topic.
‘It is under those circumstances we gain the confidence to bring clear guidance and meaning to our experiences and we stop relying on hoping things will be ok.’
By being more morally judgemental and defining a ‘national value’, Furedi said ‘we can bring up children much more freedom-loving, much more open’.
We need to ‘define what binds us together as a community and as a nation’ and build back boundaries with our children that have been dismantled, he said.
He claims that dismantling those boundaries has weakened the process of socialisation that parents use to transmit values to their children.
‘If what’s happening now is they are kicking against open doors, which is really what is going on, then the whole developmental process becomes compromised,’ he said.
‘This leads to a situation where the transition from childhood to adolescence takes much, much longer than ever before and the transition from adolescence to adulthood also takes much longer.’
Furedi said he once saw a man wearing a T-shirt saying ‘I’m done with adulting’ which he claims is an example of this inability of millennials to embrace adulthood.
‘Mothers take their 18-year-olds shopping and it’s their daughter that tells them what to wear, not the other way around,’ he told The Times.
Fathers are out wearing the same clothes as their sons and listening to the same music, he said, adding it leads to an almost ‘conscious effort not to be a father to your child or a mother but to be their best friend’.
‘They can make their best friend with their peers. They need somebody that can look up to, somebody that can inspire them. There is this estrangement from adulthood.’
He said children are also being made to act more like adults, with socialising happening in reverse and moral authority moving from adult to children.
‘You have someone like Greta Thunberg being put on a pedestal to lecture these horrible adults and instead of telling her to “get down and do her homework” adults are taking the knee and asking her if she wants a Nobel peace prize,’ he said.
He said this distaste for borders is prominent in the West, particularly in Anglo-American nations such as the UK and the US.
‘It is important not to be complacent as these ideas percolate through American soft power – people watch Netflix all over the world and you watch their program and the child will come across as superior to bad tempered adults,’ he said.
The lack of borders has created a blurred line in today’s culture, he explained, a line that is also less clear between privacy and publicity, rules and freedom.
Part of this comes from the cultural devaluation of the act of judgement – saying this has led to a loss of clarity about moral boundaries.
This lost sense of borders has encouraged a permanent mood of identity crisis and if society is going to be ‘more open-minded’ things need to change, he said.
‘I have long argued the implications of grey areas in society and the insecurity that this brings for individuals,’ Furedi said.
He says children develop by reacting against boundaries given to them by parents and society and over three or four generations those walls have been weakened
‘Without the discipline of boundaries, there is little to guide people as they make their way in the world.’
The professor said the boundary in politics between public and private lives has been blurred as part of this dismantling of borders, fuelling identity politics.
He said this has led to a paradox in society where young people have been raised without facing the judgement of their parents of their actions, so in turn they refuse to accept the same judgement in others.
Furedi said ‘safe spaces’, the idea that certain things shouldn’t be discussed for fear of upsetting or triggering people, is an example of them finding borders.
He says these spaces are just an opportunity for people to ban those with views who clash with their own and is part of identity politics.
‘The thing about identity politics is that every expression they use is actually a contradiction,’ he said.
‘They talk about diversity — that’s one of the key values of identity politics — but identity politics is totally hostile to a diversity of viewpoints.
‘So if you argue a different narrative to what they are arguing that is seen as racist, as offensive, as hate.’
Furedi said the same sort of people who go about ‘policing cultures’, telling others they ‘can’t have their hair that way’ or ‘tearing down statues’ are only interested in selective ‘deep rooted culture’.
‘They are only against distinctions that have given meaning to human experience over the centuries,’ he said.
‘There is a double standard where some borders are being attacked, important national borders, but new borders, identity borders, are being encouraged. ‘
‘If you are a white actor playing a back role you are policed out of existence, they reach a point where they find refuge in ‘safe spaces’ that are nothing but boundaries, artificial boundaries they constructed themselves,’ he added.
DEFINING THE GENERATIONS: FROM SILENT TO CENTENNIAL
Generations are a group of people who were born around the same time and place – though the exact dates for when each generation starts and another ends are uncertain.
They are usually broken into a group that have certain characteristics in common such as growing up with technologies.
But who belongs to what generation and what characteristics are associated with each age range?
Born 2010 – present day
This is the first generation to be born entirely in the 21st century and the majority are the children of Millennials. They grew up with smartphones and tablets as a major part of their childhood entertainment and will come of age in the 2030s.
Generation Z, iGen, or Centennials:
Born 1995 –2010
Those born after 1995 are growing up in a world that has always been associated with technology for them. They are the most connected, educated and sophisticated. Known as the most open minded generation to date.
Millennials or Generation Y:
Born 1980 – 1994
Those born in this group have been described as the Peter Pan or Boomerang Generation as they commonly move back to live with their parents. There has also been a delay in getting married or starting a career. They are thought of as lazy, narcissistic, and prone to switch jobs quickly. But they are also open minded and look for more of a work-life balance.
Born 1965 – 1979
Known as the ‘middle child’ of generations they are often forgotten. But those in this group are more ethically diverse and better educated than the Baby Boomers. More than 60 per cent went to university, according to thebalancecareers. They are independent, resourceful and self-sufficient. Millennials and Gen Z refer to them as the ‘Karen Generation’ after the stereotype of the complaining middle-aged woman.
Born 1944 – 1964
The term ‘baby boom’ was coined after the drastic rise in the number of births after the end of the second world war. This generation have a strong work ethic, are self-assured, competitive and goal centred. They often put their career above everything.
Traditionalists or Silent Generation:
Born 1944 and before
This group were expected to be seen and not heard growing up. They were the ‘silent generation’. A strong work ethic, tough, and resilient this group saw work as a luxury and are some of the wealthiest members of society. Loyal employees they respect authority and work long hours.