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The ages of adolescence are now being redefined

Millennials are often accused of being selfish, lazy, and delaying the realities of growing up, but new research could redefine exactly when adolescents cross into adulthood.

Young adults today are studying longer, leaving home later, and getting married and older ages. By all accounts, the young adult is settling into the classic definitions of “adulthood” much later in life than previous generations.

Researchers from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia say this should be taken into account when defining adolescence, and that the ages from puberty to adulthood should be 10 to 24 years old instead of 14 to 19 years old.

These days puberty starts earlier, which is part of what motivated the Melbourne team to look into what ages would better suit the gap between childhood and adulthood.

The researchers published their findings in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health Journal.

Even though puberty starts earlier, the research also highlights the changing perceptions of adulthood, and how many millennials are now delaying typical adult milestones like parenthood and marriage.

Not only will extending adolescence to 24 years of age reflect the evolution of adulthood in today’s younger generations, but also will help ensure policies properly support young people.

“’Although many adult legal privileges start at age 18 years, the adoption of adult roles and responsibilities generally occurs later,” said Susan Sawyer, first author of the paper. “An expanded and more inclusive definition of adolescence is essential for developmentally appropriate framing of laws, social policies, and service systems.”

Of course, not everyone agrees with Sawyer, as some experts are concerned that extending the ages of adolescence will further hinder development and the transition to adulthood.  

But regardless of personal opinion on these changes, the new research could simply help characterize what appears to be an undeniable trend.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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