Good news for young people tired of being told to grow up: A team of academics writing in the Lancet wants to expand the period in life we think of as adolescence by five years, CTV News reports. "The transition period from childhood to adulthood now occupies a greater portion of the life course than ever before," the team writes in an article published Wednesday. They argue for delaying the end of adolescence, which starts at 10 years old, from 19 years old to 24 years old. "Age definitions are always arbitrary, [but] our current definition of adolescence is overly restricted," the BBC quotes lead author Susan Sawyer as saying.
The team argues there are physiological and sociological reasons for expanding adolescence. Scientists now know the brain continues to develop after the age of 20. And young people are moving away from their parents, getting married, and having their own children later than at any other point in history. In Britain, people are getting married nearly eight years later than they were in 1973. The team says adolescence should be redefined for the good of the 1.8 billion people between ages 10 and 24 on the planet. “An expanded and more inclusive definition of adolescence is essential for developmentally appropriate framing of laws, social policies, and service systems,” the article states. However, sociologist Jan Macvarish warns we could end up infantilizing young people. "Society should maintain the highest possible expectations of the next generation," she says.