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According to The Boston Globe, the quarter-life crisis occurs in one's twenties, after entering the "real world". Erik H. Erikson, who proposed eight crises that humans face during their development, proposed the existence of a life crisis occurring at this age. The conflict he associated with young adulthood is the Intimacy vs. Isolation crisis. According to him, after establishing a personal identity in adolescence, young adults seek to form intense, usually romantic relationships with other people.
Common symptoms of a quarter life crisis are often feelings of being "lost, scared, lonely or confused" about what steps to take in order to transition properly into adulthood. Studies have shown that unemployment and choosing a career path is a major cause for young persons to undergo stress or anxiety. Early stages of one living on their own for the first time and learning to cope without parental help can also induce feelings of isolation and loneliness. Re-evaluation of one's close personal relationships can also be a factor, with sufferers feeling they have outgrown their partner or believing others may be more suitable for them.
Recently, Millennials are sometimes referred to as the Boomerang Generation or Peter Pan Generation, because of the members' perceived penchant for delaying some rites of passage into adulthood for longer periods than previous generations. These labels were also a reference to a trend toward members living with their parents for longer periods than previous generations.
The notion of the quarter-life crisis is explored by the 1967 film The Graduate, one of the first film depictions of this issue. Other notable films that also do so are Bright Lights, Big City, The Paper Chase, St. Elmo's Fire, How to Be, Reality Bites, Garden State, Accepted, Ghost World, High Fidelity, (500) Days of Summer, Lost in Translation, Silver Linings Playbook and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, as well as the musical Avenue Q and the HBO television series, Girls. The 2008 web series Quarterlife was so named for the phenomenon. Other movies exploring the quarter-life crisis include, Reality Bites, Tiny Furniture, The Puffy Chair, Fight Club, Stranger than Fiction, Greenberg, Frances Ha and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A 2014 comedy directed by Lynn Shelton titled Laggies lightheartedly delves into the complexities of a quarter-life crisis.
The 1975 Fleetwood Mac song "Landslide", written by Stevie Nicks in her late twenties, explores many of the self-doubts and fears of the quarter-life crisis, at a time when Nicks professed to be uncertain about her musical career and her romantic life.
- Jessica Girdwain. "How to Survive a Quarter-Life Crisis". SELF.
- Goldstein, Meredith (September 8, 2004). "The quarter-life crisis". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-09-05.
- Erikson, Erik H. (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: W. W. Norton.
- Shaputis, Kathleen (2003). The Crowded Nest Syndrome : Surviving the Return of Adult Children. Olympia: Clutter Fairy. ISBN 0972672702.
- "Berklee Today".
- "Landslide by Fleetwood Mac Songfacts".
- Barr, Damian. Get It Together: A Guide to Surviving Your Quarterlife Crisis. Hodder & Stoughton Paperbacks, 2004. ISBN 0-340-82903-6
- Hassler, Christine. "20-Something, 20-Everything: A Quarter-life Woman's Guide to Balance and Direction." New World Library, 2005. ISBN 978-1-57731-476-9.
- Hassler, Christine. "20-Something Manifesto: Quarter-Lifers Speak Out About Who They Are, What They Want, and How to Get It" New World Library, 2008. ISBN 978-1-57731-595-7.
- Pollak, Lindsey. "Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World." Collins Business, 2007. ISBN 0-06-114259-X
- Robbins, Alexandra. "Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis: Advice From Twentysomethings Who Have Been There and Survived." Perigee, 2004. ISBN 978-0-399-53038-8
- Robbins, Alexandra; Wilner, Abby. Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties. Tarcher, 2001. ISBN 1-58542-106-5
- Wilner, Abby; Stocker, Catherine. "Quarterlifer's Companion: How to Get on the Right Career Path, Control Your Finances, and Find the Support Network You Need to Thrive." McGraw-Hill, 2004. ISBN 978-0-07-145015-7