Scientists now believe adolescence, the phase of life stretching between childhood and adulthood, is actually longer – and adulthood starts at age 24.
In a piece written in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal, scientists say adolescence now lasts from the ages of 10 to 24, when it used to be thought to end at the age of 19.
This is down to young people stretching out their education for longer, and factors including getting married later on and having kids at an older age.
In the journal, scientists say ‘changing the definition is vital to ensure laws stay appropriate’, but another expert warns doing so increases the risk of ‘further infantilising young people’.
According to BBC News, Dr Jan Macvarish, a parenting sociologist at the University of Kent, sayid there is a ‘danger in extending our concept of adolescence’.
Older children and young people are shaped far more significantly by society’s expectations of them than by their intrinsic biological growth.
There is nothing inevitably infantilising about spending your early 20s in higher education or experimenting in the world of work.
Professor Russell Viner, president-elect of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, disagrees with Dr Macvarish’s criticism of broadening adolescence and says it can be seen as ’empowering young people by recognising their differences’.
As long as we do this from a position of recognising young people’s strengths and the potential of their development, rather than being focused on the problems of the adolescent period.
In the UK, the average age for leaving home is now around 25 years for both men and women.
Statutory provision in England in terms of social care for care leavers and children with special educational needs now goes up to 24 years.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the average age for a man to enter his first marriage in 2013 was aged 32.5 years and for women across England and Wales, it was 30.6 years.
That signifies an increase of almost eight years since back in 1973.
Lead author Professor 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.
This social change, she said, needs to ‘inform policy, such as by extending youth support services until the age of 25’.
Age definitions are always arbitrary but our current definition of adolescence is overly restricted.
The ages of 10 to 24 years are a better fit with the development of adolescents nowadays.
Times, and society, has definitely changed so it’s probably only fair to move the milestone.