Teens are taking their time to “grow up”

What many teens of the past always saw as rites of passage are passing many by these days as new research shows teens are taking their time to “grow up” in today’s world.

The age teens started driving and working for money were two of the criteria which were studied in new research from the US which has revealed teens today are not engaging in “adult” activities as early as generations before them.

Researchers from San Diego State University studied more than eight million teens involved in large-scale surveys from 1976 to 2016, looking at how often teens engaged in activities that adults do but children do not – such as dating, working for pay, going out without parents, driving and having sex.

Lead author and San Diego State University Psychology Professor Jean Twenge said the developmental trajectory of adolescence had slowed according to the research results, with teens “growing up more slowly than they used to.”

“In terms of adult activities, 18-year-olds now look like 15-year-olds once did,” Dr Twenge said.

Researchers used previous large-scale surveys which questioned teens about how they used their time and their engagement in certain adult activities. The team also looked into how changes to family size, life expectancy, education and the economy may have impacted the rate teens participated in adult activities.

The study found teens in the 2010s were less likely to work for an income, date, drink alcohol and go out without their parents than teens of previous decades. The slowing trend was noted across the demographic groups studied, leading researchers to conclude that teens are generally growing up more slowly in contemporary society.

Researchers questioned whether an increase in online activity by teens was a reason behind the cultural shift, noting a marked increase in online use by teens in recent years compared to previous decades.

“The trend toward engaging in fewer adult activities cannot be explained by time spent on homework or extracurricular activities – time doing those activities decreased among eighth and tenth graders and was steady among twelfth graders,” Dr Twenge said.

Researchers also wrote that the revelation teens were taking longer to take on adult activities/responsibilities was neither a good or bad outcome, but rather a reflection of the current cultural climate in the US.