This explains A LOT — and (sort of) excuses that “Hey mom! Can you transfer…” text you’re about to send. According to a new study, psychologists have found that we’re mentally and emotionally teenagers until 24 years old now.
While turning 18, at least in America, signifies the start of adulthood, most of us know that isn’t exactly the case nowadays. We may be able to buy cigarettes, vote, and apply for credit cards, but emotionally, most American 18-year-olds are entering college (20.4 million students in 2017), which is basically a pre-adulthood cocoon where you’re kind of an adult but not really.
The new study published in The Lancet on January 17th made the argument that instead of adolescence lasting from ten to 19 years old, adolescence more realistically lasts from age ten to 24. (Millennials are all vehemently shaking our heads in a rousing “YES” right now.) Historically, the markers of adulthood have shifted as our labor systems and culture evolved. As Child Labor Laws emerged, a cultural shift happened where childhood was introduced as a concept; no longer were you a baby then, essentially, an adult. In 1904, the concept of adolescence was discovered by G. Stanley Hall, then-president of the American Psychological Association.
The Melbourne Centre for Adolescent Health research team, led by Dr. Susan M. Sawyer, writes:
Adolescence encompasses elements of biological growth and major social role transitions, both of which have changed in the past century. Earlier puberty has accelerated the onset of adolescence in nearly all populations, while understanding of continued growth has lifted its endpoint age well into the 20s. In parallel, delayed timing of role transitions, including completion of education, marriage, and parenthood, continue to shift popular perceptions of when adulthood begins.
While this study may contribute to the indignation occasionally directed towards entitled millennials, it’s an incredibly helpful study in reframing adulthood — nowadays achieving the traditional milestones of adulthood (marriage, home-buying, saving money) aren’t as easy to achieve. And we aren’t as eager to be tied down by those markers. It’s nice to finally have some proof on paper as to why that is.