The new findings are consistent with other recent research, and they tell a complicated story of teens today.“Some people have written that alcohol use and sexuality are down, so that must mean that teens are more virtuous than they used to be,” says lead author Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University. But before anyone can get married they have to go through the process of getting to know a person and pursuing love for them (at least if you practice the Western tradition of pursuing marriage). It’s also hard, excruciating, joyful, hurtful, and incredibly fulfilling — at least this is what married people tell me, and from watching them, I believe it. The researchers analyzed survey responses from 8.3 million adolescents, ages 13 to 19, from across the country over the last 40 years (1976 to 2016).They found that today’s youths, compared to those in previous decades, are less likely to engage in adult activities, including drinking alcohol, dating, having sex, going out without their parents, driving a car and working a job.I do not intend to defend a certain set of rules, or refute any.
“Teens are safer and healthier than they’ve ever been,” she says, “and that’s obviously a very good thing.” (The latter statistic comes from research Twenge did for her new book, MORE: Teens Are Getting More Depressed But Using Fewer Drugs The new study did not investigate why maturity has slowed among teenagers, but the researchers have a few guesses.“Others wrote that they’re less likely to have jobs, so they must be lazy or immature.” “If you look at the big picture, it’s not that they’re doing more good things or more bad things overall,” says Twenge.“It’s just that they’re less likely to do all kinds of things that adults do, and there is definitely a trade-off there.” One downside to slower development is that teens may be unprepared for living independently when they go off to college, get their first job or set out on their own, Twenge says.Today, the researchers say, 18-year-olds act more like 15-year-olds from previous decades.That was true across all demographic groups in the study.