The always thought-provoking Al Fin has an excellent article examining whether men are growing less mature than in former years. An excerpt:
Recent personality testing of men and women in various countries appear to indicate that men in developed countries are becoming less mature--as mature behaviour grows less to be expected and demanded by society. Among developed nations, the process of lowered male maturity appears to be further advanced in Europe than other advanced nations.
. . .
There is a reason why many boys in affluent societies never truly become men. Because they don't have to. If they are never forced into self-discipline or responsibility, why should they make the effort? Military service is often a "rite of passage" separating boyhood from manhood, youthful fecklessness from more manly competence and responsibility. Employers are beginning to note the differences in ambition, maturity, and "stick to-it-iveness" between males who have passed through such a rite, and those who have not.
Psychological neoteny is not just a river in Egypt. Wait, er--never mind. Anyway, if you raise children in age-cohorts, separate from the adult world of responsibility, pamper them, let children essentially raise each other--you will reap a harvest of perpetually adolescent incompetent narcissists, as often as not. Which is why we see large numbers of such lost souls--unable to read, reason, communicate, or take responsibility for themselves.
I think he's on to something here. To use military service as an example, I fully agree that it makes men out of boys - it certainly did for me! In later years, when I was responsible for hiring people, I could usually tell without asking who'd done military service, and who hadn't. The visual difference alone, the way in which they carried themselves, was striking. I always counted military service as a major plus when making a hiring decision - actual combat experience rated a double plus.
If you haven't already put Al Fin on your list of daily reads, it's worth bookmarking. Very interesting and thought-provoking material.