Mid-to-late teens and young adults are transitioning into adulthood at a much slower pace, and they are okay with it.
As a parent of teenagers, the research is corroborating what I have long observed. Are todays teens slower to grow up than their parents? As a member of a small group of friends at the same point in our lives, many of us have recent high school graduates living at home who are in no rush to venture forth into adulthood.
Our children, mine included all recently graduated from high school with good grades, did well in college placement exams, and even managed to be accepted to state colleges and universities. Only one of us out of our group of six had a child that opted to leave home to go a university out of the area.
Within our small group of friends, school choice was not the only surprising observation to emerge at our recent get together. Choices regarding driving, partying, and relationships was also unexpected. None of the young adults living at home within our small group of friends wanted any of it. Rather, they chose to remain close to home doing pretty much did in high school, go to school, hang out with friends, and work, if they had jobs.
Todays teens slower to grow up?
It turns out that we are not alone in our observation regarding the current generation of young adults. Recent academic research is corroborating this trend.
Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University recently looked at four decades of survey data about mid-to-late teens. She found that members of this group are delaying the classic milestones of adulthood, mainly working, going out without their parents, driving, dating, and partying.
“Today’s 18-year olds share the same behaviors as did 15-year olds in the late 1970s.” says Ms. Twenge. Adding, that they are making these choices voluntarily, parents are not imposing this delayed independence.
Factors leading to the choice to grow up slowly
When asked for an explanation of these choices, Twenge says that the spread of smartphones is a factor. Smartphones enable teens to socialize from the safety of their own homes. They no longer have to leave home to be free of eavesdropping parents. Typing on keyboards, Facetime and video can be done with in the safety of a small screen.
According to Twenge’s study, there are additional factors at play as well. A declining rate of childbirth and advances in safety drive this process. When parents have fewer children and expect them to reach adulthood, they expend more care upon them.
Ms. Twenge makes another observation in her study that few would argue with. Children in their mid-to-late teens are completely unprepared for adulthood. She adds, “this is not a good thing or a bad thing, the transition into adulthood is happening over a longer course of time”.
While Ms. Twenge’s study is receiving a lot of attention, it is not without controversy. Many experts are disputing the main points that the study makes.
Living in a household where such a scenario is playing out, I think that Ms. Twenge’s conclusions have merit. While my children are much closer to home than when I was at their age, I still see that teenage rebellion but manifested in different ways. Rather than having to leave home to engage in my rebellion, today’s teens are able to do the same with technology and with their friends from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
What do you think? Do you observe today’s teens slower to grow up?