They just aren’t growing up like us



Danny Tyree

According to Agence France-Presse news service, researchers have found what they call a “broad-based cultural shift” in teen behavior.

Writing in the journal “Child Development,” the authors reveal that today’s American teens are about three years behind their counterparts from the 1970s, when it comes to the average age for achieving certain rites of passage and trying “grown up” responsibilities and pleasures such as dating, sex, drinking, employment and driving.

Although today’s teens are more content to “hang out” and group date, depend on their parents indefinitely (for shelter, transportation and allowances) and delay starting their own families, my contemporaries in the ‘70s seemed to be in high gear to secure an after-school, buy a $600 rattletrap car, obtain Marlboros and bootleg alcohol, get married right out of school and produce 2.5 children.

This is probably largely because we were the offspring of the Greatest Generation. If we respected our parents, we aspired to emulate (and surpass) their achievements. (“Mom! Dad! I’m going to work at the same company for 40 years, pay ridiculously low insurance premiums and hope that my eyesight goes before I start to notice to my life-long mate’s constantly increasing collection of wrinkles.”)

If we didn’t respect our parents, we were anxious to rebel and declare our independence. (“Ha! You said I’d break my neck imitating Evel Knievel. But actually, I broke it because streaking doesn’t mix well with marijuana, long hair and platform shoes. Guess I showed you, you reactionary old bigot!”)

Despite what “soccer moms” may think, researchers say there has been no great increase in homework and extracurricular activities over the years that would account for the slowdown of teen social development.

Instead, the researchers do allow that the amount of time teens spend with their faces glued to smartphones, tablets and computers could be a leading factor in the shift. I’m sure the social media moguls are happy to have a captive audience, but I’m surprised that the producers of other goods and services aren’t more worried about lost revenue from teens dragging their feet about joining the adult market.

I’m not advocating an aimless slacker lifestyle, but I think it’s sort of sweet that the developmental trajectory of adolescence has slowed and teenagers are growing up more slowly. I just hope that teens don’t keep getting further and further behind schedule.

Then we might overhear things like “I know I said we could always adopt, but I sort of chased the darned lady from the adoption agency off our lawn.” Or even “I’d love to pin that prom corsage on you, but that undertaker whipper snapper insists it would go better with my casket.”

— Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at


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