The study, published Tuesday in the journal Child Development, found that the percentage of adolescents in the U. who have a driver's license, who have tried alcohol, who date, and who work for pay has plummeted since 1976, with the most precipitous decreases in the past decade.
The declines appeared across race, geographic, and socioeconomic lines, and in rural, urban, and suburban areas.
To be sure, more than half of teens still engage in these activities, but the majorities have slimmed considerably.
And the portion who had tried alcohol plummeted from 93 percent between 19 to 67 percent between 20.
That seems sort of unrealistic."Although the study did not look at people younger than 13, Twenge said she suspects the postponement of adult behavior begins in early childhood, starting with the decrease in children walking to school alone or playing unsupervised.
In recent decades parents have become more restrictive about independent activities, and laws in some states have codified this, banning children from going out in public or staying home without adult accompaniment.(Legislation has also delayed another adult activity: In the 1970s the legal drinking age was as young as 18 in some states; it is now 21 almost universally.)To Daniel Siegel, an adolescent psychiatrist and author of "Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain," it makes sense that adolescents would "remodel" their brains to adapt to a society that has changed since the 19th century."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 really be responsible till your late 20s,' well then the brain will respond accordingly," he said.
But "if it's fear-based, obviously that's a concern."Among teenagers now, "there is a feeling you're getting of, 'Wow, the world is pretty serious, so why would I rush to immerse myself. '"Teenagers are also more conscious now about the possible repercussions of their actions, said Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families."They're starting to realize, wow, they really do have to worry about their resumes," she said. There's just so many people saying, 'Oh, it's going to be hard when you get out there.'"Her mother, Penelope Haskew, 45, feels mixed about her daughter's preference for spending free time at home with her family."On the one hand, I know she's safe, she's not out getting pregnant or smoking pot or drinking or doing all kinds of risky stuff that I can imagine would be age appropriate,"she said.
"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, what the hell.'" With fewer career paths available to those without a college degree, she said, young people can no longer afford that kind of nonchalance."They're absorbing the same kind of anxiety about the future that their parents have for them."Chiara Power, 15, of San Juan Island, Washington, has no interest in dating, driving, working for pay or drinking alcohol - and the rising costs of college keep her up at night."I'm already panicking and having nightmares about the student loans that I'll never escape, and I'm worried that I'm going to end up homeless," she said. "They're just like, 'Dude, that's not happening for the next three years, so chill. But Haskew wonders whether her daughter is missing out on life lessons those behaviors can teach.