Millennials Are Afraid of Growing Up – Here’s Why

The majority of the population in many countries consists of millennials – the adults in their twenties or thirties who don’t want to stop being teenagers. While it is not surprising that many millennials are living the life that the previous generation i.e. Generation X did not in their youth, it is, in fact, true that this life mainly consists of teen-like behavior with the desires of luxuries, parties, uncontrollable emotions and more issues that deter growth into actual adulthood. While a majority of today’s literature explains the millennials as a narcissistic generation, it is a rather unjust generalization.

According to Jeffrey Arnett, these people are basically stuck between teenage and adulthood, and are having difficulty transitioning into the latter. She called this stage the ‘emerging adulthood’. Usually, millennials in this transition do not want to consider themselves adults as they want to feel younger rather than a stage older. There can be a variety of reasons why this happens. Read on to find out.

Is this a Defense Mechanism?

Psychology identifies a few defense mechanisms i.e. the reaction of the mind to stressful situations to feel better, and one of those defense mechanisms is ‘regression’. Regression is when a person acts younger or goes back to a younger stage of life psychologically to cope up with stress or other problems. You may see girls in their twenties dressing up like little girls, or men in their thirties just playing video games all day long – while these acts are not stereotyping of any gender or age group, but are not the regular activities of an older age group.

Is Depression a Reason Why Millennials Can’t Grow Up?

Many psychologists and psychotherapists agree that millennials who have depression or psychological issues growing up mature later in life. In fact, Brooke Donatone, a psychotherapist, stated in one of her articles that she has seen over a hundred people at least, who cried in her office because of one or all of the following reasons:

  1. They could not manage their time independently and needed their parents’ support;
  2. They did not want to get a job and work for themselves;
  3. They did not want to take adult responsibilities like running a family,

The above-stated reasons show how sadly messed up the generation really is. Brooke identifies three main reasons behind this inability of millennials to accept adulthood:

1- The increase in health care and awareness has increased life spans:

It is estimated that the increase in health care facilities and the health-oriented awareness that has entered our lives has elongated the life spans. The longer life spans have caused the conversion of mindsets to the belief that old age is too far away to feel ‘old’ already. This has also given rise to the ‘YOLO’ (You Only Live Once) lifestyle that demands the celebration of life to be today like there is no known probability of tomorrow.

2- More helicopter parents have raised more dependent and helpless children:

Parents of millennials, Generation X, has come to be helicopter parents in many cases. Helicopter parenting refers to a type of parenting that monitors every act of the child, which has its benefits, but raises the child as a person who always needs approval, supervision, and the help of others. This type of parenting has also been associated with an increased rate of mental health problems in young adults and adults. In fact, it has been surprisingly reported that companies have started to encourage candidates to bring their parents to interviews, and employees to bring their parents at work! While it is good to bond with the parents, helicopter parenting has led to a slowed, inadequate mental growth of the millennial generation, resulting in psychological issues that are generally defended with the ‘regression’ mechanism.

3- Economy’s shift of lesser well-paying jobs has increased financial dependency:

Previously, just graduating from college was enough to land a job that pays well enough for 18-year-olds to live independently. Now, higher educational standards and extensive job eligibility criteria have resulted in lesser young adults with well-supporting jobs, which means more adults of the millennial generation are depending on their parents or guardians for financial support. According to Brooke, the competitive business environments with lesser highly paying job opportunities have also been a reason why many adults are unable to support themselves and hence, have been unable to consider themselves independent adults.


Despite the general opinion that millennials are a narcissist generation who think of themselves as everything, it is found by many psychotherapists and psychologists that it is the economy and the upbringing of the recent decades that have led to this change in the acceptance of ‘adulthood’. Millennials are not narcissistic – they are just troubled because of factors that were beyond their control, and they will eventually make it out of this phase. However, it’s not to be overlooked that depression and mental health issues still arise. If you or a loved one are struggling with depression or other mental health issues, BetterHelp has therapists available in your area that can meet online, on your schedule, to make therapy as easy as possible.