Scientists now think adolescence lasts from the age of 10 to 24, instead of ending at age 19 due to numerous reasons, reports BBC.
Various biological reasons support the extension. Body continues to develop beyond the age of 20. Brain continues to mature beyond the age of 20, working faster and more efficiently. Many people’s wisdom teeth don’t come through until the age of 25.
Modernisation impacted adolescence too. As society continues to develop, young people marry and have children later. According to the Office of National Statistics (UK) in 2013 the average age for a man to enter first marriage was 32.5 in 2013 and the average age for women 30.6 years across England and Wales. This showed an increase of almost eight years since 1973.
Lead author Proffessor Susan Sawyer, director of the centre for adolescent health at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, wrote, “Although many adult legal privileges start at age 18 years, the adoption of adult roles and responsibilities generally occurs later.”
She said delayed partnering, parenting and economic independence means semi-dependency related to adolescene has expanded.
Previously, puberty used to occur around the age of 14 but with improved health and nutrition around the world to age 10. Half of all females start experiencing puberty by 12 or 13 years of age.
Sawyer further stated that although age definitions are always arbitrary but our current definition of adolescence is too restrictive.
“The ages of 10-24 years are a better fit with the development of adolescents nowadays.”
This social change, she said, needs to inform policy, so that policy and governmental changes can be made such as extension of youth support services.
However, Doctor Jan Macvarish, a parenting sociologist at the University of Kent, does not hold the same opinion.
“Older children and young people are shaped far more significantly by society’s expectations of them than by their intrinsic biological growth,” she reasons.
“There is nothing inevitably infantilising about spending your early 20s in higher education or experimenting in the world of work.”
We should not risk “pathologising their desire for independence”.
“Society should maintain the highest possible expectations of the next generation,” she stated.
This article originally appeared on BBC
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