Study: Are Today’s Teens Afraid to Grow Up?

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Dating and obtaining a driver’s license have long been American rites of passage, but a new study suggests that today’s teens seem less interested in meeting those milestones than prior generations.

A study published this week in the journal Child Development showed a sharp decline over the past decade in the percentage of adolescents who date or drive. The share of teens who have tried alcohol or held a paying job has also decreased.

And while some of the data may suggest that teens are making healthier choices, the overall trend of delaying adulthood may speak to the increased pressures today’s kids face, according to a Washington Post article examining the new findings.

“They’re starting to realize, wow, they really do have to worry about their resumes,” Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council of Contemporary Families told the Post. “They come in without the kind of reckless disregard of consequence that a more confident generation of kids had, who said, ‘I’ll drop out of school and join the peace movement.’”

As a result, teens have become more future-focused than previous generations, said adolescent psychiatrist Daniel Siegel.

“In a culture that says, ‘Okay, you’re going to go to high school, go to college, go to graduate school, and then get an internship, and you’re not going to be really responsible till your late ‘20s,’ well the brain will respond accordingly,” Siegel told the Post.

But has that mindset made adolescents too cautious?

Penelope Haskew, 45, told the Post she is happy to know that her 15-year-old daughter is a rule-follower who favors staying home with family to  going out with friends. Yet Haskew sometimes worries whether the teen is missing out on life lessons.

“Is that stuff necessary for human development, do you have to be a risk-taking teenager in order to succeed as an adult?” she asked.

Read the full article.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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