There are several factors that go into the lack of interest in independence between the ages of 16-22 (late highschool through college). One is a lack of income, because jobs that are willing to hire teens are less common than they used to be. Financial independence is quite important to overall independence, and it’s tough to get that as a teen. And even if there were more jobs available, teens have less free time than ever, because schools have increased the amount of homework expected to ludicrous levels. Good luck finding time for a 20-hour-a-week job when you already have 4-hours a night worth of homework.
Technology also plays a factor. Remember that a big drive for independence is socialization. It used to be that the only way to see your friends and get away from your parents was to hop in a car. Nowadays you can call and text your friends to your heart’s content, lowering the importance of achieving independence in that respect.
It’s also important to keep in mind that educational expectations are on the rise. A bachelor’s degree today is what a highschool degree was to previous the baby boomers, or a middle school degree was for the “Greatest Generation.” Going to college no longer makes you stand out, having a Master’s or PhD does. If adulthood starts with your first major career employment, that’s been backed off from 18 years old to about 25, just because of expectations from the economy.
Birth control obviously figures in as well. We’ve had enough generations between the advent of cheap birth control and today that it’s ingrained in our social conscious that sex does not equal children. For those people who are driven by sex, becoming an adult meant satisfying those urges, but satisfying those urges meant taking on the responsibilities of a family. Nowadays, with birth control pills and condoms readily available, you can be sexually active with no strings attached. It’d be hard to wait for adulthood to start at 25, if that meant you had to be celibate until then, but that’s simply not the case anymore.
On a positive note, there are probably fewer awful parents now for kids to escape from. Hitting your kids is not considered a reasonable parenting strategy anymore, screaming at your kids is known to be detrimental. Parents are simply better than they used to be. That removes the biggest impetus for gaining independence, getting away from the misery of life with your parents. If your kids aren’t scrabbling to get out of your house, it’s probably because you’ve succeeded in making your house a good and nurturing home for your children.
Kids of today live in an entirely different reality than previous generations, and (unsurprisingly) they’ve adapted to it.