Generation Y fails commitment test

Young people’s fear of commitment is a cultural issue, according to University of the Sunshine Coast psychology lecturer Dr Rachael Sharman.
Young people’s fear of commitment is a cultural issue, according to University of the Sunshine Coast psychology lecturer Dr Rachael Sharman. Don Bayley

IF you are Generation Y and the word commitment sends a shiver down your spine or sends you running for the hills you are not alone.

The good news is it is not your fault.

Staying C-free is the result of what experts are calling the cotton-wool effect, which sees the people of Gen Y dodging obligations to avoid failure after being mollycoddled by "helicopter parents".

University of the Sunshine Coast psychology lecturer Dr Rachael Sharman said a fear of commitment was a cultural issue common in people of the bubble-wrap generation.

Dr Sharman said the commitment issue lay in not just relationships but also financial obligations, job loyalty and planned social engagements.

"We are living in a current culture where parents have not allowed their children to get hurt or taught them failure is a part of life and now they are terrified of getting hurt," she said.

"It is very sad because failure is so important for success.

"When you're a kid you're supposed to learn that when you fall over and graze your knee you need to get up and dust yourself off."

One woman who knows well the effects of what it means to be a Gen Y commitment phobe is Caloundra woman Jen.

The 29-year-old said it was a subconscious fear.

"It is not just about being tied down to one person," she said.

"It is about buying a house or making plans for six months time.

"It is not about a better offer. It is about not knowing how I am going to feel on any given day and I hate letting people down."

Dr Sharman said Gen Y's lack of commitment appeared to be an effect of the breakdown of the matrimonial model.

She said in an age where the divorce rate was high, brief marriages were the norm and numerous partners was acceptable, there was no positive relationship model for young people to mirror.

"The nuclear family is not the norm anymore," Dr Sharman said.

She said commitment problems would magnify more for each generation to come if the culture did not change.

Although on a whole it is hard to shift a cultural problem, she said on an individual level people could try to fix their phobia.

"You can set up challenges, whether it is joining a sporting team or committing to plans with friends," Dr Sharman said.

But Jen said her lack of commitment was ingrained in her and signified her independence.

"I never want to rely on anyone else. I am self-sufficient. It is a good and bad thing," she said.

"If I don't commit, I can't let anyone down and can't be let down".



  • Join a sporting team
  • Make plans with someone for a months time
  • Sign up for a 24-month phone plan
  • Say yes to a date next week
  • Don't break off a relationship just because you're scared of heartbreak

Topics:  generation y relationships

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