Adulting is a Mess!

Dinnertime and I’m in my pajamas … am I still “adulting?”

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

When you hear “adulthood,” what comes to mind? Employment, paying rent, stock options? Probably NOT eating Pop-Tarts for every meal. But how does society define LEGITIMATE adults?

Enter Adrianna Bagnall-Munson of Columbia University. For eighteen months, she observed a program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She noted their participation in job training, community activities, and meetings with social workers.

Results? RESPONSIBILITY and INDEPENDENCE are often core to how people define adulthood. Bagnall-Munson calls this expectation “cultural adulthood.” Her research suggests that societal expectations can be a barrier in recognizing disabled adults AS adults.

Using independence and responsibility as a benchmark may FEEL inclusive, but this research suggests that it’s inadvertently exclusionary. And maybe even a bit contradictory. None of us, disabled or otherwise, are RESPONSIBLE and INDEPENDENT all the time.

I’m looking at YOU, last night’s dishes! I mean, I’m no fan of cleaning, but I’m still an adult! And — oh look, POP TARTS!!

Reference: Bagnall-Munson, A. (2021). How to Become an Adult. Contexts, 20(3), 10–15.

Image credit: from referenced article