Teenagers are less likely to drive, date, have sex, and engage in typical adult behavior according to a study published Tuesday by the Journal Of Child Development.
There have been many hypotheses about why the millennial generation is the way it is, but the study’s author thinks most people aren’t getting it right. “People say, ‘Oh, it’s because teenagers are more responsible, or more lazy, or more boring,’ but they’re missing the larger trend,” said lead author of the study Jean Twenge to The Washington Post. Kids are less interested in dating, driving and getting jobs because they don’t need to anymore she said.
Because the millennial generation lives a relatively plush life, they don’t enter into the kind of survival mode that kids in previous generations did. “You’d have a lot of kids and be in survival mode, start having kids young, expect your kids will have kids young, and expect that there will be more diseases and fewer resources,” said Twenge, who is also a psychology professor at San Diego State University and the author of “Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”
Roughly 30 years ago, 86 percent of high school seniors had gone on at least one date, but only 63 percent of kids between 2010 and 2015 have dated the study says. In the last 30 years, the number of high school students with jobs has fallen from 76 to 55 percent, and the percentage of those who’ve tried alcohol by the time they go to college has fallen from 93 percent to 67 percent.
Smartphones and the internet have affected these numbers according to the study, but other factors — like changes in culture and education attainment — are at play given that these changes began roughly 20 years prior to the invention of the iPhone, the study says. “It seems sort of ridiculous to be seriously dating someone in high school. I mean, what’s the plan there? Continuing to date through college and then eventually get married? That seems sort of unrealistic,” 17-year-old Quattro Musser told WaPo, explaining differences in dating and relationship culture.
Kids in high school are also having less sex, according to the Center for Disease Control statistics, which say that 54 percent were having sex in 1991 while only 41 percent are as of 2015.
“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,” said adolescent psychiatrist, Daniel Siegel.
“Adult activities were less common when median income, life expectancy, college enrollment, and age at first birth were higher and family size and pathogen prevalence were lower,” the study concludes. The changes were consistent across race, geography and wealth.
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