``Young working-class men and women like Diana are trying to figure out what it means to be an adult in a world of disappearing jobs, soaring education costs and shrinking social support networks. Today, only 20 percent of men and women between 18 and 29 are married. They live at home longer, spend more years in college, change jobs more frequently and start families later.


It is not that these men and women don't value family. Douglas, then 25, talked about loss: "Trust is gone. The way people used to love is gone." Rather, the insecurities and uncertainties of their daily lives have rendered commitment a luxury they can't afford.

But these young men and women don't want your pity -- and they don't expect a handout. They are quick to blame themselves for the milestones they have not achieved. Julian, an Army vet from Richmond who was unemployed, divorced and living with his mother at 28, dismissed the notion that his lack of success was anyone's fault but his own: "At the end of the day looking in the mirror, I know where all my shortcomings come from. From the things that I either did not do or I did and I just happened to fail at them." Kelly echoed that: "No one else is going to fix me but me."

This self-sufficiency, while highly prized in our culture, has a dark side: it leaves little empathy to spare for those who cannot survive on their own.

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