File this one under “how to adult.”
Teenagers are pushing off adult responsibilities and milestones such as getting a job, learning to drive and being in relationships more so now than any decade in the past 50 years. When comparing them to kids from the 70s, 80s and 90s, the youth of today are taking their sweet time, according to a new study by San Diego State University published Tuesday.
Teens “are taking longer to engage in both the pleasures and the responsibilities of adulthood,” lead author of the study — published in the journal Child Development — Jean Twenge, told USA Today. “The whole developmental pathway has slowed down with today’s 18-year-olds living more like 15-year-olds once did.”
The SDSU team used data from seven studies of about eight million teenagers, kids ranging in age from 13 to 19, over decades and saw trends among the teens that pointed to a slowing of their “adult development.” Today’s young adults in their early 20s are acting like teenagers and younger teens are more like children, Twenge said.
While children in eighth and ninth grades are less likely to have sex, drink, work or go out without their parents in tow, 12th graders — high school seniors — are also taking longer to get there, the study found.
A specific comparison between the adulthood steps taken by teens surveyed from 2010-2016 and those who answered questions in the early 1990s showed a stark difference.
About 29% of ninth graders more recently surveyed said they’ve had sex, down from 38% in the ’90s. Now, 29% of eighth graders are drinking, compared to an eye-popping 56% about 20 years ago. Back then, 63% of eighth graders worked, but today, that number is down to 32%.
The study said that these figures have shifted in all economic groups across the country and, contrary to popular belief, the researchers noted that the deviations cannot be explained by changes in homework levels or after school activities because those factors have not increased over the years. The readily-available Internet — made possible by modern technology — may have something to do with it, they said.
And this “slow life strategy,” as Twenge calls it, is making kids ill prepared for college, adulthood and beyond.