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Your kid feels empowered by student debt: Study

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Few, if any, adults who are in the hole will look kindly on debt, but young people seem to have an entirely different view of it according to a new study.

When it comes to young adults aged 18 to 27, the more credit card and university loan debt they carry, the more they feel in control of their lives, and their self-esteem rises with their debt level.

"Young people seem to view debt mostly in just positive terms rather than as a potential burden," Rachel Dwyer,a professor of sociology at Ohio State University and lead author of the study, said in a release.

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The study of 3,079 young adults looked at how credit card and student loan debt impacted their self-esteem and sense of mastery, the belief that they were in control of their lives.

"We thought educational debt might be seen as a positive because it is an investment in their future, while credit card debt could be viewed more negatively," Dwyer said.

"Surprisingly, though, we found that both kinds of debt had positive effects for young people. It didn't matter the type of debt, it increased their self-esteem and sense of mastery."

The study also found that young adults from lower income families were most likely to get a boost of self-esteem and mastery from debt.

The realities of debt, however, appear to sink in around age 28. For people that age and older, higher levels of debt began to reduce their sense of self-esteem and mastery.

"By age 28, they may be realizing that they overestimated how much money they were going to earn in their jobs. When they took out the loans, they may have thought they would pay off their debts easily, and it is turning out that it is not as easy as they had hoped," Dwyer said.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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