Thursday, September 21, 2017

Extended Childhood

Teenagers aren't so eager to grow up as they used to be:
…teenagers are increasingly delaying activities that had long been seen as rites of passage into adulthood. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Child Development, found that the percentage of adolescents in the U.S. 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.

…Between 1976 and 1979, 86 percent of high school seniors had gone on a date; between 2010 and 2015 only 63 percent had, the study found. During the same period, the portion who had ever earned money from working plunged from 76 to 55 percent. And the portion who had tried alcohol plummeted from 93 percent between 1976 and 1979 to 67 percent between 2010 and 2016.

Teens have also reported a steady decline in sexual activity in recent decades, as the portion of high school students who have had sex fell from 54 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2015, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics.
Thoughts about the underlying cause?

We joke at my house that our kids want to hang around and do nothing because we have made home too pleasant for them; we say, "If only we'd beaten them more, they'd want to get jobs and leave." But seriously, have video games, movies on demand, the internet and friendly parenting made it more fun to just be 16 without worrying about rushing into adulthood? Is watching Bojack Horseman while you post on Facebook more fun than driving to a vacant lot to drink beer?

How big a part does anxiety play? The percentage of teenagers who report serious anxiety has (depending on who you ask) doubled or tripled or quintupled. Is anxiety keeping them from going on dates or getting jobs? If so, is that related to gentle parenting and the joys of cocooning at home, or is it caused by something else?

Why don't teenagers want jobs? Could it be because they already feel rich enough? I mean, if you have a smart phone and a computer with a broadband hookup, what else do you need? And if this is true, does it mean there is something wrong with the economic statistics that say the median household is no better off than a generation ago?

1 comment:

David said...

I think friendly parenting, anxiety, material contentment--they all play a role.

Perhaps one thing to do is keep in mind that our tough ancestors who repressed their anxiety and got things done did so not because they were better than us, but because they largely had no choice.