The young adult and independence

I was recently asked this question

Hello Tony,
thanks you for sharing your work and your thought.
I have a question about adolescence and independance. You wrote that there can be not independance as long as the youngster is not earning his own living. although I rather agree with you, what about numerous women who never really earn a living but choose to stay at home?


Psychologists present a number of areas which the younger person has to master, at least to some degree in order to achieve what is considered psychological separation from the parents. A few of these are:

1. Leaving home. Establishing independence from home supervision.

2. Social maturity. A maturity in one’s own social circle.

3. Establishment of heterosexual (or homosexual) interests. The attainment of adult attitudes to sex.

4. Beginnings of economic independence. One cannot truly become psychologically adult until they earn their own living.

It seems safe to say that a person who can construct a lifestyle where they can earn enough money or obtain enough resources such that they can survive on their own for an extended period of time are going to feel good about themselves and a sense of pride in achieving that. They can provide for themselves a regular supply of food, adequate shelter and clothing and provide a reasonably safe environment to live in. If a person can do this that is going to be quite an empowering achievement and be good for the self esteem.


All four areas mentioned above are important but one could say the economic independence is especially important as it satisfies the bottom rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy. Which are the very basics of human survival. One could be economically independent and never achieve a social circle of their own and one will still survive. But not the other way around, so in this way one can say it is more important physically and psychologically.

If you are dependent on some one for money or resources (such as a place to live) then you are dependent on them in a most important way. That could significantly effect the self esteem. One may also be dependent on another for a social circle but that is not as important and one could then say the self esteem is still negatively impacted but less so. The lower down on Maslow’s hierarchy the more impact it is going to have positively or negatively on the self esteem. If one accepts this assumption we can see why economic independence is so important.

Four ladies

However this is where it gets blurry. What is economic independence? If a husband and wife work as a team with him doing the direct income earning and she doing domestic duties then as a team they are economically better off than if they were both functioning as individuals. When humans successfully combine their work and resources they can have a better quality of life than if they were working alone. The team achieves a higher level of economic independence.

But this assumes they both have a particular mindset. Are her domestic duties considered equal or as important as the husband’s income earning activities. If they can both believe this then they have a good team structure. But again the hierarchy plays a role here. If the husband stops working that family is in very dire circumstances and in some countries it could mean death as food and shelter cease to be available. The bottom rung of the hierarchy is not satisfied making all the others above it dysfunctional. If the wife ceases to function as a child carer then the children become neglected but there is still food and shelter and they wont die. This can lead some to think her ‘work’ is less important and then we have the basis for trouble in the team (marriage relationship).

If she believes this (with or without his encouragement) she finds herself in the same relationship dynamics as the teenager who is not economically separate from the parents. The marriage will then suffer.

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