Rejuveniles

Kidults, adultescents, or rejuveniles - call them what you will - the trend for immaturity is every-where. It has become unfashionable to be mature. Adulthood is so last year. I

Increasingly, adults in their late 20s and 30s dress and behave the same way as teenagers. They read books written for kids, they watch the same films as 10-year-olds and buy merchandise marketed at consumers
half their age.

University of Kent sociology professor Dr Frank Furedi has been studying the infantilism of adulthood and he believes it is a troubling trend driven by the lack of incentives to behave like a grown up. 

'There is no cultural affirmation for adulthood. You are only relevant today if you are young,' argues Furedi. 'Today the way to demonstrate your worth is through the extent to which you still go to rock con-certs, wear trendy clothes or do the same activities you did during your adolescence.'

Marketers are now recognizing this new generation and are targeting them heavily, not least because theirs is a culture very similar to the one that advertisers have concentrated on most in the last decade - youth. Only, they are youths with money. They have respectable jobs but are time poor. They crave an escape from their routines and their outlets are youthful.

All kinds of organizations are recognizing the effect this new breed is having in their sphere. The National Reading Society, for example, recently announced that it is children's books that appeal to adults that have caused the number of readers over 18 to double in the past few years. A recent survey by Powergen found that in the last 12 months half of all parents had read a 'kiddult' book, such as Harry Potter, for their own enjoyment. Philip Pullman recently became the first children's writer to win the Whitbread Book of the Year award. The UK trade magazine Booklist has even invented a new category, Crossovers, for titles that span the generation gap.

In the last decade the average age of videogame players has increased from 18 to 29. Television also showcases the trend. Hit shows such as Friends, Frasier and Men Behaving Badly all portray adults acting like teenagers. 

More than nine million people in the UK have registered with the Friends Reunited website in the hope of getting back in touch with their school days. The whole nostalgia trend to relive the sounds, sights and feelings of our school days is also part of the same phenomenon. 

Of course, there is nothing new in our preoccupation with and preservation of youth. Most people from their early 20s onwards have some fear of ageing and have come to regard staying young as a desirable way of life. But Furedi believes that these new rejuveniles are not merely responding to a cultural norm, but are trying to escape from a world they find unsettling. 

'People are frightened of what the future might hold and are terrified of taking risks,' says Furedi. 'They convince themselves that immature behaviour is an attempt to remain carefree, but what they really want to do is feel protected and safe. And what safer place is there in this world than childhood?' 

Furedi also believes that the trend permeates every-thing from our relationships to how we bring up children. 'We know so much about failed adult relation-ships that people approach their own adult life with a heightened sense of emotional risk.’ 

Interestingly, in many cases this trend is pushing adults further away from their parents, but closer to their children. Increasingly, fathers and sons and mothers and daughters are sharing entertainment