Today’s Teens Delaying Usual Adulthood Responsibilities


Commentary, Various Authors

Parents, you may be in luck. Or maybe not?

A recent study found that teenagers today are delaying taking on adult responsibilities, compared to teens from the 70s, 80s and 90s.

The study, conducted by researchers at San Diego State University (SDSU) and Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, looked at 40 years of data. Researchers found that today’s teens are delaying things like having sex, dating, drinking alcohol, getting a job, going out without their parents, and driving.

This trend of teens delaying things that usually come with adulthood, researchers say, reflects a culture shift in the U.S.

“The developmental trajectory of adolescence has slowed, with teens growing up more slowly than they used to,” Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at SDSU and lead author of the study, said. “In terms of adult activities, 18-year-olds now look like 15-year-olds once did.”

The CC Pulse asked three local teens to reflect on these findings, and weigh in on where they see themselves on the road to adulthood and how important they feel leaving home and their parents is to becoming an adult. Here’s what they had to say.

Learning to Drive

I’m 19. I currently do not have a job, but I am looking for one. It has taken me a while because my parents do not want work to be a distraction from school for me. I am also currently learning how to drive. Now, I may not have a job or be able to drive yet, but I am taking my first steps into adulthood. Everything I am doing now is for my future. I don’t consider myself a teen from now on because I am not as lazy. I feel mature for my age.

In previous generations, those activities were definitely seen as something everyone had to go through, but recently, in the past decade, people have started to become more open with things, especially with what they want to do in life.

My family always tells me to succeed in school and focus on my education. So, as a result, I don’t focus on dating or getting myself a car. I see those as things that can wait until I complete my ultimate goal: getting my college degree.

As of now, I think that moving out of my parents’ house is more of a “want” rather than a “need.” I think I can hold off on worrying about moving out and finding my own home until after college when I have a steady income.

Besides, I don’t want to get a home and get evicted a month later, or end up starving myself because I can barely make ends meet. I’d also rather walk everywhere and get my exercise than spend thousands of dollars on a car. If I need to get somewhere far I can just ride a bus or BART. Sure, being able to drive a car is prestigious, but prestige gets old after a while, just like how gas runs out after a while.

My mom agrees with me about what it really means to be an adult: “taking responsibilities for your actions and being responsible as a human being.”

-Ronvel Sharper, 19

Going for It

I relate to earlier generations of teenagers rather than my contemporaries.

Back in the day, adolescents would have cars and well-paying jobs at such a young age. That was because they would take matters into their own hands. I have the same intentions and potential towards adulthood as teens before me.

Right now, I am a senior in high school and feel as if I am responsible in many ways. For example — this may sound naive in some way — but I feel like I have the next four to five years planned out already.

I currently have a job and am not waiting for adulthood to come my way, like the teens from previous generations. I am going for it. My parents did not get me my job — I got it myself. I didn’t want to be babied and get my first job after high school or until college. I went for it right away.

Getting a job in high school, I feel, is the first step to adulthood and independence. Next year, once I graduate, I plan on being more independent from my parents. Not distancing myself, mind you, but being much more independent.

Going out on my own and leaving my home is a key goal for me. I’m not planning on staying home with my parents forever.

It is bound to happen, as I keep getting older and older. I may not be the absolute closest to my parents, but it is going to be very hard to not see them every day after school or picking me up after work.

It’s going to be very sad and heartbreaking, but it is only going to be the beginning of my journey.

–Mareana Guevara Diaz, 17

Taking My Time

I can relate to the teens nowadays in some ways, as well as teens from before me. I have procrastinated on things like getting my license and a job, and, at the moment, applying to college. I know I have to do these things, but I feel I can take my time.

Honestly, I have been saying that I wanted a job and my driver’s permit since I was 16. So, I am currently looking for a job and studying for my license.

So, I will admit I procrastinate, but I am also getting things done.

I do think in order to really become an adult you should eventually move out from your parents’ home. It is something important, but every person is different. To some, it may matter more than others. I am very close with my parents and I am not sure if I am ready to move out. It may be soon due to college or maybe not, but it is definitely a key goal for me.

Because I procrastinate but I am looking to take on more responsibility, I can relate to both teens before me, as well as teens today. You only become an adult when you completely feel ready.

-Ana Comparan, 17

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