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Dazed and Confused film
Dazed and Confused film

Adolescence now lasts until you’re 24, according to science

Experts believe the current definition of adolescence is ‘overly restricted’

I am 24-years-old. When my mother was 24 years old she was a nurse with a house and a 1-year-old child (me). I am and have none of these things. I thought it was because I am immature and hopeless, and it turns out that yes! I am! But it’s not my fault. Scientists are now arguing in a piece for the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health Journal that actually, adolescence ends at 24, whereas it was previously believed to end at 19.

The scientists believe that as we are continuing our education for longer, delaying marriage and having children late (if at all), the definition of adulthood has changed. They argue that changing the definition is “vital” to ensure laws stay appropriate, but another expert warns that doing so “risks further infantilising young people”. Which, fair – I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t use adulthood “officially” starting five years later as an excuse to fuck around for even longer.

As well as the fact that our unstable living situations and insurmountable debt make it impossible to start families and grow up “properly”, there are biological reasons for why adolescence should be extended – the brain continues to mature beyond the age of 20, whilst many people’s wisdom teeth don’t come through until 25. Reportedly, the average age for people to get married has increased by almost eight years since 1973, as more and more people realise that marriage is an archaic and unnecessarily expensive venture.

The lead author of the study, Professor Susan Sawyer, writes that “although many adult legal privileges start at age 18 years, the adoption of adult roles and responsibilities generally occurs later.” and that delayed independence means that the “semi-dependency” of adolescence continues long past 19.

She says delayed partnering, parenting and economic independence means the "semi-dependency" that characterises adolescence has expanded. While a few other experts have disagreed with the findings, saying that there is nothing infantilising about your early 20s, there’s definitely something in our generation being less independent than the last. Everything is bad and terrifying and we are so poor, so why not pretend to be teens and have no accountability for another five years?