And it’s not just teens – children are less likely to walk to and from school and are more closely supervised, while young adults are taking longer to settle into careers, marry and have children.“Adulting” – which refers to young adults performing adult responsibilities as if this were remarkable – has now entered the lexicon.Not drinking or having sex might be considered “virtuous,” but not driving or working is unrelated to virtue – and might actually be seen as less responsible.
These trends continued even as the economy improved after 2011, suggesting the Great Recession isn’t the primary cause.
Nor is more schoolwork: The average teen today spends less time on homework than his counterparts did in the 1990s, with time spent on extracurricular activities staying about the same.
The parents needed to focus on day-to-day survival, not making sure their kids had violin lessons by age five.
Life history theory explicitly notes that slow and fast life strategies are adaptations to a particular environment, so each isn’t inherently “good” or “bad.” Likewise, viewing the trends in teen behavior as “good” or “bad” (or as teens being more “mature” or “immature,” or more “responsible” or “lazy”) misses the big picture: slower development toward adulthood.
This generation of teens, then, is delaying the responsibilities and pleasures of adulthood. Looking at these trends through the lens of “life history theory” might be useful.