The XX Factor

There’s Nothing Wrong with Extended Adolescence for Men

On Feb. 19 the Wall Street Journal ran an excerpt from Kay Hymowitz ‘s new book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys . In this essay she argues that affluent young men and women are getting married and starting families later than “ever before in human history,” and this has created a troubling, extended period of “preadulthood” for these upper middle class youngsters (See Robin Marantz Henig’s ” What Is It About 20-Somethings? ” from the New York Times Magazine for a similar argument). While Henig’s discussion of pre-adults is not gendered, Hymowitz mostly discusses how this extended adolescence is affecting men. Hymowitz says that twentysomething men are puerile and shallow, and that their inability to get their careers or their romantic lives together is forcing women to give up on having kids or sending them to the sperm bank so they can “get the DNA without the troublesome man.”

While this might be true for some women, if you read Hymowitz’s book, she basically admits that there isn’t good data to bolster the idea that the extended adolescence of young men is bad for marriage, parenthood, or society. The vast majority of college educated men and women are still getting married and having children, and their marriages are more stable than ever before. Hymowitz concedes:

[P]readulthood could be considered a policy success of epic proportions. College-educated mothers are far less likely to divorce than their less-educated counterparts…The reason is pretty clear: people who marry later divorce less. Couples who wait until they are 25 to tie the knot double their chances of staying married.

Hymowitz says that these educated couples are having fewer children because they’re waiting so long, which is part of why this extended adolescence is problematic. But the idea that affluent women are having fewer children just because their peers can’t “man up” is not the whole story. There are a ton of reasons why women are waiting until their 30s to get pregnant.The idea that they’re running in droves to the sperm bank because young men are too busy playing video games is just wrong, despite what bad J.Lo romantic comedies might tell you .