Modern society moves at a rapid pace. In order to keep up, people strive to complete tasks quickly, acquire new information at the speed of a button, and achieve more. But one thing that cannot be rushed is psychosocial maturity. Adolescents reach the precipice of childhood at different times. Some mature into adulthood early, developing adult characteristics, responsibilities, and attitudes. Others delay their maturation by pursuing postsecondary education and engaging in other activities prior to entering the workforce. But does subjective maturity affect career and life achievement in later years? To explore whether psychosocial maturity and subjective age influence career aspirations, Jane E. Benson of the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Colgate University in New York recently led a study assessing the maturity of young adults ranging in age from 18 to 22.
Benson evaluated the participants for educational achievement and career position when they reached their late twenties and found that psychosocial age does indeed matter. Specifically, Benson found that the participants with the highest levels of psychosocial maturity and subjective age adapted to the school-to-work transition better than any other group. Those with the lowest maturity and subjective age, although they tended to stay in school the longest, also had positive outcomes. Despite the fact they began their careers later, they developed at paces that suited them and gained the education necessary to successfully obtain good jobs.
Those with high subjective age and low psychosocial age were ill-prepared to handle the shift from school to work. These participants, referred to as pseudo-adults in this study, had the lowest levels of career attainment. They were less equipped to make the choices necessary to move from college or high school into the work world. Pseudo-maturity can also decrease academic performance and self-esteem. Overall, Benson believes that children who see themselves as adults, or those who are forced into taking on adult responsibilities, should be wary of jumping into the adult world before they are psychologically ready. “While psychosocial maturity is particularly important among those who are on a faster track to self-defined adulthood, it is less consequential for those who exhibited younger subjective ages,” she added.
Benson, Janel E., Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson, and Glen H. Elder, Jr. The implications of adult identity for educational and work attainment in young adulthood. Developmental Psychology 48.6 (2012): 1752-758. Print.
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