Becoming a “Grown Up”

by Sue Shellenbarger

Twenty-seven-year-old Trish Gallagher is very clear about the milestones that made her think, “Finally, I’m an adult.” One was paying for her first solo vacation in 2010 to visit a college friend in San Francisco. Another was buying her first dog, a husky-hound puppy, at a shelter and raising him to age 4½, says the Fairbanks, Alaska, cartographer. The third: “Getting kicked off [her] parents’ insurance into the shark-infested waters” of managing her own medical bills.

Katie Decker of Houston, is trying to build a jewelry-design business, To her, adulthood means ‘gaining independence and doing what you love.’

Nowhere on her radar screen are such traditional rites of passage as buying a house or getting married—or even purchasing her own cellphone plan. For her generation, Ms. Gallagher says, “the milestones are very individualistic.”

As the oldest members of the Millennial generation enter their early 30s, psychologists and market researchers are identifying the new and distinctive ways this group, the largest demographic cohort in U.S. history, defines adulthood. Many remain closer to their parents than past generations, still vacationing together, shopping together and even wearing the same clothing brands. But Millennials, usually defined as born between 1981 and the early 2000s, are less likely than ever to follow past generations’ stair-step path to marriage, a house and kids.

Read more of this article, “New Ways to Gauge What Grown-Up Means” from the Wall Street Journal (June 18, 2013).

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