Kids Forever? Teenagers Are Putting Off Adult Activities Until Later In Life


It seems like they're being affected by Peter Pan syndrome. Teenagers are taking longer and longer to behave like adults. From things like remaining in their parents' houses far into their 20s and even 30s to a large number of young adults being out of the workforce, there is certainly a crisis on the front of growing up. But it goes even deeper than just living situation and work life.

A study published in the Journal of Child Development has found some rather alarming things about how teenagers are acting as they progress toward adulthood. It seems that the entire landscape of growing up has changed, a completely different world than the one in which many of us knew as teenagers and young adults.

The social and historical contexts may influence the speed of development. In seven large, nationally representative surveys of U.S. adolescents 1976–2016 (N = 8.44 million, ages 13–19), fewer adolescents in recent years engaged in adult activities such as having sex, dating, drinking alcohol, working for pay, going out without their parents, and driving, suggesting a slow life strategy. Adult activities were less common when median income, life expectancy, college enrollment, and age at first birth were higher and family size and pathogen prevalence were lower, consistent with life history theory. The trends are unlikely to be due to homework and extracurricular time, which stayed steady or declined, and may or may not be linked to increased Internet use.

The cause of this is not immediately known. Is it the Internet and the proliferation of digital devices? It's certainly possible, but nothing definitive has been concluded as of yet.

If it is the Internet causing this delayed jump to adulthood, social scientist Arthur Brooks has a recommendation to spur them to action: "I recommend mocking them for being such squares."

What are some ways to help teenagers grow into adulthood? Have you found any methods that work? Share your experiences with us!