Justin Bieber and the ‘emerging adult’ crisis

By Dani-Elle Dubé

Research shows young adults ages 18-25 commonly act out, need more parental guidance, not freedoms


In the morning hours of Jan. 14, 2014, police officers raided Justin Bieber’s California home, looking for anything that could tie the young Canadian pop star to an egging incident from the previous week. But instead of eggs, police found illegal drugs.

Nine days later, the then-19-year-old was arrested in Miami, Florida for alleged drag racing and drunk driving with his father, Jeremy, by his side.

With allegations of defacing property in Brazil, possession of illegal drugs in Sweden and assault charges in Toronto among his other run-ins with the law, the Ontario-born pop singer’s career has begun to read more like a police rap sheet.

Bieber appears to be a textbook example of an “emerging adult” who was raised by permissive parents. And he’s not alone.

A 2010 study by the University of Montreal, the Université de Rennes in France and Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Italy shows Canadian parents favour the permissive style of parenting over the authoritative and authoritarian styles.

But research since 2000 suggests that children who are products of the permissive style tend to exhibit problem behaviours such as risk-taking and aggression during the life stage of emerging adulthood.

And because of this delicate transitional period in life, researchers say those between the ages of 18 and 25 are in need of more guidance than ever.

According to Statistics Canada, while crime stats in the country are declining overall, those between the ages of 18 to 24 years old are more likely to offend.

Despite the age group accounting for only 12 per cent of Canada’s overall population, 30 per cent of the accused in court cases in 2011-2012 involved young adults. The main crimes included robbery (50%), drug possession (45%), break and enter (39%) and mischief (38%).

Although permissive parents are warm and accepting in their approach, experts warn the lack of limits placed on their kids fails to teach self-control and independence. These parents accept their child’s behaviour, good or bad, beneficial or not, and give up most of the control to their children.

Subsequently, these kids tend to become selfish, immature and rebellious and are often unable to accept responsibility and respond poorly to authority, research has found.

In Ontario, however, a recent study led by the Niagara Region Public Health department discovered that Ontarians overall prefer the authoritative parenting style.

Considered the more balanced style, authoritative parents give their children practice in making choices and guide them to see the consequences of those choices.

They consider their child’s point of view, even though they might not always agree. They are firm, kind, warm and loving.

Children raised by authoritative parents have generally higher self-esteem, are more independent, accept responsibility, make better choices, are able to cope with change and are better equipped to succeed in the workforce.

According to Jeff Biletchi, family health manager and the study’s lead researcher, a child’s personality and behaviour is greatly influenced by their parents’ parenting style.

And as an individual reaches the emerging adulthood stage, things become trickier.

Because of various new environmental factors and societal expectations that did not exist 30 years ago, those between the ages of 18 and 25 are forced to make decisions they have never encountered before.

It is the age of identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in between life stages and being aware of endless possibilities.

Emerging adults also report a yearning to spend more time with their parents, suggesting this is a period where support from parents is much valued and needed, which may help explain why Justin Bieber and many other young Canadian adults are acting out.

While permissive parents may believe they are doing their child a favour by allowing them freedom, ultimately children, including emerging adults, want and need established boundaries.

Photo: depositphotos.com © Jean_Nelson