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1 the period of a person's life, especially between their thirties and mid-forties, when they are no longer young but do not want to be considered as old or middle-agednoun [countable]
2 a person, usually aged between thirty and forty-five, who does not want to be considered as old or middle-aged
'There has even been another category added, 'middle youth' … for those of us well past our green years but not quite ready for middle age. According to the market research, this social group of thirty-somethings may well go out clubbing on a Saturday night but after a few hours' sleep "they go to a garden centre". They are living the life of the Middle Youth.''Youth in Britain Today' by Ruth Cherrington, British Studies Web Pages, British Council 2003
'Middle youths are a generation ahead … They are 35- to 45-year-olds who regard themselves as being at the cutting edge of youth culture …''The children who won't grow up', Spiked Life July 2003
the expression middle youth … has been popularized by those who want to resist the conventional images of people over thirty
The expression middle youth, essentially a euphemism for middle age, emerged in Britain in the late nineties. It has been popularized by those who want to resist the conventional images of people over thirty, people who have traditionally been portrayed as moving to a more mundane lifestyle governed by increasing age and commitment to family, finances, etc. Middle youth then is an attempt to classify those who are too advanced in years to be considered 'young', but adopt an eclectic lifestyle, enjoying youthful attitudes and interests balanced against the typical responsibilities of someone firmly in their adulthood.
A countable reading, i.e. a middle youth or middle youths, refers to individuals who fit into this age and attitude category. The uncountable reading has a secondary sense used to refer to the state of mind of such individuals, and both uncountable senses can be used adjectivally as in middle-youth men/women/attitudes.
The expression middle youth appears to have its origins in the marketing and advertising industry, one of several terms emerging in the late nineties for the demographic classification of potential audiences. One of the earliest uses of the expression was connected with the launch of the women's magazine Red in January 1998. The magazine was a new concept, in that it targeted the 30- to 40-year-old market and aimed to strike a middle-ground between younger fashion publications and magazines full of recipes and knitting patterns. The magazine had a remit to appeal to middle-youth women. The term middlescence (and middlescent to refer to individuals, also used as an adjective) is a near-synonym coined several years earlier.
This article was first published on 10th October 2003.