Young Adults and the “Failure to Launch” Phenomenon

Young Adults and the “Failure to Launch” Phenomenon - Dragonfly Transitions

Managing life’s milestones can be challenging. Whether it’s celebrating a big birthday, taking your child to their first day of kindergarten or mourning the death of a loved one, life’s inevitable changes are tough.

Adjusting to change also takes practice, resilience and the confidence that, someday, you’ll get used to the new normal. For some teenagers, however, making the transition into adulthood feels impossible, and they experience what’s known as a “failure to launch” into life’s next stage: independence. While the phases of young adults who struggle with the transition to independence can vary, there are common patterns.

Characteristics & Phases of Failure to Launch Young Adults

While not a clinical diagnosis, “failure to launch” is a term to describe a syndrome prevalent in Millennials who feel unable to leave home and live independently. To navigate the transition into adulthood, young adults must feel confident in their ability to succeed away from home and have learned how to persevere in the face of failure.

This article uses the term “failure to launch” as it is increasingly being used and is recognized within American society. However, Dragonfly Transitions, challenges readers to look at alternative vocabulary when speaking of emerging adults. The term “failure to launch” can increase the sense of shame a young adult may experience as they embark on a very normal developmental process of figuring out the roles and responsibilities of being an adult.

Some young adults may be dealing with a diagnosed or undiagnosed issue such as a learning disability, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADD or ADHD, all of which can inhibit emotional maturity. Adults know dealing with life’s inevitable challenges requires resilience and a belief that things will eventually get better, though the process may be painful. As parents, it’s your instinct to protect your child from pain; however, learning how to deal with failure and disappointment is part of becoming independent.

In fact, one of the signs or phases of young adults who struggle with launching is having a low tolerance for distress and a lack of persistence. Following are various phases these young adults may go through:

  • A lack of motivation for school.
  • Uninterested in spending time with friends.
  • No longer enthused to pursue interests.
  • Spending all day at home.
  • Choosing to play video games all day.
  • Drinking alone and excessively.
  • Doing drugs.
  • Refusing to take responsibility for their actions.
  • Looking to others to blame for any mistakes.
  • Showing narcissistic tendencies.
  • Expecting a lot from others without reciprocating.
  • Repeating the same mistakes without learning from them.
  • A lack of life goals.
  • Indifference to having a vision for their future.
  • A lack of life skills such as knowing how to clean, make a bed or do laundry.

Millions of Americans are currently dealing with these phases of failure to launch young adults and the consequences of them being stuck in adolescence. According to a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center, 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31 were living in their parents’ home – the highest share in four decades, setting a record total of 21.6 million. For 18- to 24-year-olds, 56% have yet to establish independent lives. According to a study at Georgetown University, the labor force participation rate for young adults is at its lowest point since 1972, and the percentage of men in their late 20s who work full-time has declined from 80 to 65 percent between the years 2000 and 2012.

In addition to the impact on the labor market, financially supporting your child into their adulthood can have a significant impact on your own financial health and retirement plans. The prevalence of this prolonged adolescence means there’s plenty of support available to families to help their children make the leap into adulthood.

How Dragonfly Transitions Can Help Young Adults Transition to Independence

For 17 years, the staff at Dragonfly Transitions has taught young adults the necessary life skills to make the leap into adulthood and given them the confidence and guidance to embrace their independence. The staff at Dragonfly Transitions in Southern Oregon understands these challenges and is committed to providing a caring, respectful environment for students to break free of the phases of failure to launch young adults. Through education, fitness, employment, recreation, healthy relationships, nutrition and emotional wellbeing, we teach young adults the skills they need to thrive as adults.

Our nine-to-twelve-month program has progressive phases and a variety of living environments to suit your young person’s needs. We offer an individualized therapeutic approach and a variety of life skills and group therapy including cooking, nutrition, finance, distress tolerance and social skills. In the 17 years since we started Dragonfly Transitions, we’ve seen how beneficial it is for young adults to support each other in their journey to independence.

We know the road to adulthood is difficult and raising an independent young adult can take a village. Please contact Dragonfly Transitions to learn more about our programs or call us: 208-425-4888

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