Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Child Development, Depression, Early Social and Emotional development, Emerging Adulthood, Families and Peers, Health Psychology, Human Development, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: Answer two questions: Where you born before or after 1995? How old were you the first time you were allowed, by your parents, to out of your house and into your neighborhood by yourself? If you were born after 1995 you are more likely to have said 10, 11 or 12 years of age in response to the second question while if you were born a decade or two earlier you more likely said 5 or 6 years of age. Even if this was NOT true for you, general data on American young adults suggests that these ages were largely normative for the recent generation (I-Gen or Gen Z) compared to earlier generation (millennials on back). So, what? Well, as those born after 1995 have started to head off to college or university and over the past few years, we have observed startling jumps in the rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm (cutting) and suicide in that part of the population.  These trends could be related to a lack of developmental experience with independence (out on own in neighborhood) as well as to the earlier use of social media and higher rates of screen time than previous generations. Sound a bit simplistic? Well, yes, correlational observations often are but the changes in the rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm (cutting) and suicide are real and are very worrying. What do you think might be going on and what should we (everyone not just parents) be doing about it? Watch the video record of a talk about these matters delivered recently by social and cultural psychologist Johnathan Haidt at the London School of Economics.

Source: The Coddling of the American Mind, A talk by Johnathan Haidt at the London School of Economics and Political Science, November 23, 2018

Date: November 23, 2018

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Video Link:

If you search the internet for reaction to the book (The Coddling of the America Mind) you will see that much of it is focussed upon the parts of the book (spoken to in part of the talk linked above) that concern the observed jump in student stated concerns about safety (fragility) and requests for trigger warnings and the shouting down of speaker (including professors) whose positions or views are perceived as unsafe or threatening. It is NOT that I think those lines of inquiry and discussion are uninteresting, rather I am currently more interested in how the points raised in the talk link to the reported jump I anxiety levels among undergraduate students. I have written about this issue previously in this blog (search Life Design) and I am quite fascinated with the possibility that the jump in anxiety may be related to sociohistorical changes in the contexts in which members of I-Gen and with how those contexts are potentially influencing how 18- to 25-year old’s are navigating the developmental opportunities and challenges of emerging adulthood. Typically, we focus more on developmental shifts and challenges as though they are universal (the same for young people today as they were for their parents and grandparents). Sometimes that is warranted, but changes in social norms associated with parenting and the emergence of social media and it’s “television-like” uptake mean that they may well reflect (or be) socio-historical factors that are changing the normative course of development. I do not now if this is the case, but I am going to look into it and I think that anyone with an interest in the development of emerging adults (parents, instructors/professors, and employers) and emerging adults themselves should consider coming along for the ride. It could be quite fascinating!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. In addition to the age at which they typically were allowed to be out on their own in their neighborhoods what other ways are the developmental (socio-historical) experiences of young people born after 1995 different than those of previous generations?
  2. Why might those differences lead to higher levels of anxiety after a transition to post-secondary developmental life?
  3. What are some ways in which those of us working in, or growing through, post-secondary educational institutions or other post-secondary developmental settings can facilitate the healthy development and adaptation of emerging adults born after 1995?

References (Read Further):

Lukianoff, G., & Haidt, J. (2015). The coddling of the American mind. The Atlantic, 316(2), 42-52.

Twenge, J. M. (2017). IGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us. Simon and Schuster.

Twenge, J. M., Joiner, T. E., Rogers, M. L., & Martin, G. N. (2018). Increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates among US adolescents after 2010 and links to increased new media screen time. Clinical Psychological Science, 6(1), 3-17.

Twenge, J. M., Martin, G. N., & Campbell, W. K. (2018). Decreases in psychological well-being among American adolescents after 2012 and links to screen time during the rise of smartphone technology.

Twenge, J. M. (2018). Amount of Time Online Is Problematic if It Displaces Face-to-Face Social Interaction and Sleep. Clinical Psychological Science, 2167702618778562.

Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2018). Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Preventive medicine reports, 12, 271-283.