A 2018 study published in an issue of The Lancet: Children and young people’s health could change the way we think about child development, youth and millennials forever.
According to the research presented, you may be of legal age to buy a drink or rent a car when you turn 21, but your brain technically doesn’t finish growing up until you’re 25 years old.
Currently, when people refer to someone as a teenager, most of us equate the term with being a teenager, i.e. everyone between the ages of 13 and 19, and while some also include preteens or middle years, ie. 9 to 12.
However, Professor Susan Sawyer from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and her team of scientists know that the definition of adolescence should be expanded, starting at the age of 10 and lasting until 24.
Given that the millennial generation is loosely defined as beginning with anyone born between the years 1981 (or 1982) to 2004, this means that some of you, my millennial brothers and sisters, may actually still be stuck in your teenage years.
If you’re someone in your early 20s, your reaction when you read this is probably something like, “Man… I don’t think so. I’m all grown up!”
Whereas for those of us millennials who got past our 20s and into our 30s, not to mention our big brah and sis the Gen-Xers (now in their late 30s to 40s) and the self-righteous Baby Boomers, the results of this research are likely to be far from revealing.
When I think about some of the crap I got up to in my early 20s, I just know that it’s not only a miracle I survived, it’s a miracle I didn’t end up in jail – or worse. .. to live back at at my parents house!
What is really fascinating, however, is the reasoning behind this proposed change in definitions.
The results of Sawyer’s study indicate that human brain development continues well into the 20s.
. And beyond the physiological date, it also turns out that as more people, on average, stay longer in school to get advanced degrees, they also hold back on many of life’s so-called milestones — such as becoming an adult, such as getting married, becoming a parent in a household and few children – until much later in life.
Rarely have I ever read a news story that made me feel so good about my current situation in life.
As an unmarried, childless woman in her early 30s, it’s easy to feel like you’re falling behind the bell curve.
If a group of elite scientists are suddenly willing to stand up on behalf of me and everyone else of my generation to claim that they have evidence that I am as average as the rest of my slacker cohort and that our brains simply connected this way, listen — I am ready, willing, and eager to believe every single thing they have to say on the subject.
If millennials seem immature to you, the study also suggests that this is because of the role social media plays in all of our lives these days.
It’s not that millennials are less mature than any generation that’s ever come before them, it’s that we’ve always been this way, but we couldn’t see it all so clearly until the dawn of a culture, where our lives happen in an increasingly public and then shared across a number of social networks.
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As authors of the study wrote:
“Arguably, the transition period from childhood to adulthood now occupies a larger part of the life course than ever before at a time when unprecedented social forces, including marketing and digital media, are affecting health and well-being in these years… An expanded and more inclusive definition of adolescence is essential for developmentally appropriate design of laws, social policies and service systems.”
Should the medical community widely adopt an expanded definition of adolescence, it is unlikely that the change would have any significance from a legal perspective, but it would certainly make it much easier to mock your younger cousin for her questionable fashion choices: she can It doesn’t help, she’s a teenager. (Or maybe that’s just me.)
Rebecca Jane Stokes is an editor, freelance writer, former Senior Staff Writer for YourTango and former Senior Editor for Pop Culture at Newsweek. Her bylines have appeared in Fatherly, Gizmodo, Yahoo Life, Jezebel, Apartment Therapy, Bustle, Cosmopolitan, SheKnows and many others.