A young person on the threshold of adulthood, especially one who is anxious or depressed about leaving home or taking on adult responsibilities.
Dr Terri Apter, senior tutor at Newnham College, Cambridge, has spent seven years carrying out research on a group of 65 Americans and Britons, ranging in age from 18 to 25, in the hope of finding out how these "thresholders", as she calls them, were coping with adulthood. The results surprised her: "Around 50 per cent of the group had real problems dealing with life outside the family home." Their insecure and confused behaviour was, according to Apter, worryingly similar to that of adolescents they were twentysomething teenagers.
Many thresholders are so thrown by the array of choices that confront them upon leaving university that they become depressed and listless, and in many cases, begin to doubt their abilities. "I call it 'decision paralysis'," Apter says, "and it is very common. Young people lead heavily scheduled lives, dictated to them by their parents and the education system. When they leave university and are suddenly told they have to manage things themselves, it can come as a huge shock."
Bryony Gordon, "This is real life? What a shocker," The Daily Telegraph, November 28, 2002
Social psychologist Terri Apter moves beyond the standard range of parenting handbooks, which typically leave off with the high-school years, in The Myth of Maturity: What Teenagers Need From Parents to Become Adults (Norton, $ 24.95). Apter describes the tribulations of "thresholders," young adults ages 18-24, who "appear as a hybrid, neither teenager nor grown-up, yet both." It's a time, she writes, of pronounced turmoil and anxiety. As they prepare to plunge into the demands of adult life, thresholders require adult guidance and support contrary to the widespread assumptions of parents and college administrators that this is precisely the time to "let go" and demand independence and responsibility from them.
Rebecca R. Kahlenberg, "Expert advice for the messy, blissful business of raising kids through all the stages of childhood," The Washington Post, June 3, 2001
While there has been a lot of interest in the problems of adolescents, however, the growing turmoil in the lives of young adults has gone virtually unnoticed. Many young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four (whom I call thresholders) suffer a basic sense of being overwhelmed. As Daniel Levinson noted when he observed important life transitions, young people hit a "rock bottom time" where there seems no viable way of living as an adult. More than half of all thresholders hit major snags during this time.
Terri Apter, The Myth of Maturity: What Teenagers Need from Parents to Become Adults, W. W. Norton and Company, June 2001