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DominicY's avatar

Are children growing up more slowly than ever before?

Asked by DominicY (5657points) September 13th, 2017

This morning on NPR I heard a segment from a study documenting the correlations between smartphone usage and poor mental health, especially among those born between 1995–2012. Alongside this claim, the author of the study also claimed that the youngest generation (and younger millennials) is growing up more slowly, meaning that they are moving out of the house later, learning to drive later (if at all), having less sex, doing less drugs, and are less prepared for the adult world. The claim was that people are “children” longer.

Obviously, there may be some positives to this: less teen pregnancy and less drug use is hard to argue against. But less independence and less drive seems to be a negative side. Combined with the poor mental health that may or may not be caused/worsened by excessive smartphone usage, the youngest generation isn’t having great prospects from this perspective.

Have you had this experience with your own kids or have you observed it in young people you know?

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14 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Helicopter parenting are messing up our children. I was a freedom fighter (class clown) ever since grade 5 where the teachers expected us to fully eat the B.S. that they shoved down our throats.

DominicY's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1 “Helicopter parenting” was one of the contributing factors that was brought up by one person in the discussion. That’s something I don’t know much about, since my parents allowed me a lot of freedom.

Even though I’m 26, I feel like I’m already “too old” to be included in this. It seems most people my age whom I’m acquainted with were in a hurry to move out and drive a car and “experiment” and all that. So this “cautious generation” is not something I’ve had much personal experience with. But that’s why I’m asking the question, of course.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@DominicY I had a colour tv in my bedroom since I was 12. I stayed up late nights watching the French channel looking for soft core porn. That’s why I skipped 88 days in grade 7. I was exhausted from playing Nintendo and watching tv. I needed my sleep. There was little down side. Other than a lack of grammar and knowledge of the difference between their and there. Also unfortunately I didn’t learn any more French. That would be a positive.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What you describe is due to upbringing. Physically girls are growing up as fast as they ever were and thrown into that morass of sexual demands by males just as quickly as they always have. They grow up quicker than boys physically and mentally.

Mariah's avatar

Firstly I’m extremely skeptical of all “kids these days” style arguments because literally every generation throughout history has believed that those who came after them are doing everything wrong. Times change and there will always be those who don’t like to accept it.

Anyway. As our lifespans have increased, we have steadily allowed maturation to occur more slowly. Marriage no longer occurs at age 12 (in America). Women are increasingly pushing the boundaries of their fertility by having kids later than they used to. I am all for this. People should be able to start exercising their sexuality when they feel ready rather than due to external pressures.

Furthermore, the current generation of young people were handed a shit economy where getting your footing in the working world is harder because of a lack of job opportunities for anyone with less than a Bachelor’s degree and often not even then. No wonder they’re finding it harder to move out of mom and dad’s house.

imrainmaker's avatar

^^ Good point about current economy and it’s effects.

JLeslie's avatar

I think there is some truth to it, but there are still many kids who are goal oriented regarding their adulthood, and doing all the typical things to be independent.

Adulthood is more complicated now. Many of our jobs and careers require education past secondary school. Young adults today can’t be ready for those jobs without continuing to be in school past 18 years of age, while 50 years ago that was not so much the case. Technology has changed the job market.

College I think allows children to prolong their dependence on their parents. In some ways tertiary education has extended adolescence I think. I realize some young adults pay for their own educations, but in many cases parents pay for all or part, or they are receiving loans, and not fully in the mode of adult responsibility financially yet.

My personal family experience is my neice and nephew (on my husband’s side) now 25 and 22 did not want a job when they were teens. I was worried about it at the time. I really thought they would benefit a lot from working. Their mother supported them not working, and I still think she was wrong. My neice especially did not want to work, and I just couldn’t understand it. I wanted to work when I was 14, and I did. Finally, when she was in her first year of college her father basically forced her to. She wanted to live by herself in an expensive apartment and he would not pay for the entire bill. I too told her if she wants it to get a job to pay for the rest, but I also told her I think she should live with a roommate. I wanted her to live on campus. I’m just the aunt though, and my husband’s family have very different ideas about some of this sort of thing.

Mind you, it’s worth saying my husband’s family is from a culture where the children often live at home until they marry. Moreover, the average education level is lower in their country, and at least in his family I know his parents felt like they are supposed to buy a house for the married couple. They did it for their daughter, but the daughter and her husband never lived in the house. They were supposedly giving my husband and I their house in FL, but that fell apart fast. I won’t bother telling that whole story, but one detail worth mentioning is they were not going to put the house in our name.

I look at my husband’s family, and what I see in America more and more, and what my peers did and had when I was becoming an adult, and I do think expectations are very different now. Expectations matter. We graduated college and did not necessarily expect to be able to afford everything on our starting salaries. Most of us lived with a roommate in our first apartment, or with an SO. Right now I’m living on $50k a year with my husband. That to me means most people can get by making $25k while living with a roommate. I realize that might be just getting by, and expensive cities are in a different category, but the average young adult starting out shouldn’t expect to take extravagant vacations and have a Chanel bad.

The media adds to this by constantly talking about the bad economy, bad salaries, etc. don’t get me wrong, I’m bothered by wages being so stagnant, but we need to be careful not to harm our youth by giving them excuses and by giving them hopelessness.

People might not like this part of my answer, but I really wonder as divorce has become more prevalent if that has had a direct effect. I don’t think divorce somehow slows the maturation of children, but I do think children of divorce often are less likely to want to get married, and so their process of not only marrying, but having kids, is not a high priority as young adults. I think having kids typically thrusts people into being more serious and mature.

Plus, as a society, we have been trying to tell young people to wait a little until getting married or having kids for years, so now that maybe they are doing it, are we worried about it? I guess it depends why they are doing it.

Interestingly, I have recently come across a lot of information regarding young people not being very interested in cars and driving. I do think there is a shift in that. Not an extreme shift, but more and more young people don’t look at a car as so wrapped up in their identity like previous generations. Cars are transportation and practical. Especially, as cities get denser, and gas prices rise, and the very fancy, expensive, and sporty cars still have lower gas mileage typically.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with parents helping their kids financially here and there, but I do think parents need to want their kids to be independent and communicate that. Parents also need to have a better understanding about adolescence and the importance of struggle.

DominicY's avatar

@Mariah @JLeslie Thank you for your answers; I think you addressed a lot of the differences.

I also dislike “kids these days” arguments. My initial reaction to such claims is to cringe and point out that every generation looks down upon the younger generation as doing something wrong compared to the way they did it. But while I agree that humans are not different in any fundamental way between generations, their environment is different. And you both have pointed out some important ways in which the different environment that kids are growing up in shapes some of these trends.

The days of getting married and landing a full-time job after high school are over in many parts of the country. This is no longer the societal norm. As you both pointed out, many jobs require a bachelor’s degree and even with a such a degree, it can be difficult to land a good job in an increasingly competitive market.

JLeslie, you mentioned that in some cultures it is the norm to live with your parents until you are married (or even have several generations living in the same house). I often cite this as a counter-example when Americans condemn and label those who flout the “once you turn 18, get out!” attitude that was once so prevalent, as “losers” or “babies”. Where I live, the Bay Area, it’s becoming impossible in some areas to own a home unless you make over 100K a year. In many places, the rent for a studio can be over $3000 a month. These are not prices that are friendly to young people just out of college. It’s unrealistic to expect them to be able to afford that right off the bat. Young people may also have higher standards than before; they want more degrees, they expect a higher salary right away, and this might lead to more young people dependent on their parents for longer.

As for driving and less sex, these I’m not sure about the cause of. The prevailing attitude among older generations (from speaking to them and reading comments online) is that “kids these days” are hyper-sexed and not waiting until marriage like they used to, so there seems to be a fundamental disconnect here (consider the recent cases of teens getting in trouble for sexting. Maybe they’re having less intercourse, but they’re certain not less sexual). And I’m not even sure where the “less sex” data comes from, so I’ll hold off on this claim for a while. If it is true, then maybe we are coming back full circle to the “wait until marriage” days. Regarding driving, I once read that only 30% of young people in the UK have a license, compared to the US’s 70% (which used to be closer to 95% in the 90s!) Some of the reasons listed were that in the UK, getting a license is more difficult, gas is far more expensive than in America, and public transit is more efficient and widespread there. I think you are also right, JLeslie, that driving is no longer the strong symbol of independence that it once was. As to why, I’m not sure.

One area where I do fit the trend is that I did not get a job until well into college. My parents never pushed me to get a job in high school, not even a summer job. This is one way where my parents “prolonged my adolescence”.

Either way, my interest in this topic is not to condemn the younger generations. I’m simply interested in the differences between the current youngest generation and myself when I was younger.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

No, I do not think on the whole kids are taking longer to become adults. Society at large has made it harder to be self-sufficient so the entry point into what we perceive as adulthood is often delayed as it takes more education, training and there is more competition to land a job that provides enough cash to be a “proper adult” in the eyes of many.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I also believe the perception of late maturation to be mistaken. To my mind all of those indicators are clearly driven by economic and demographic factors, and are better simply dismissed as “lack of opportunity”. Put simply, kids can’t afford to “grow up”. One need only consider the implications inherent with a kid unable to land a job capable of supporting himself apart from his parents. Clearly his sex life is likely to be restricted while living with mom and dad. The delayed acquisition of drivers licenses can be attributed to both the ongoing concentration of the population to metropolitan centers, and the climbing financial costs associated with driving.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Well. They don’t seem as intelligent, to me. The things I used to do growing up, I wouldn’t trust this generation to do. Largely because of attention. Their attention span seems terrible, even compared to my own which is poor.

And then there’s the eye contact thing. Kids between 12–16 don’t make much eye contact. They also can’t follow simple instructions. I don’t know if that has to do with eye contact.

Overall, I would say that they seem much more vulnerable than I was… I used to go miles from home, and play in the woods/swamp. We didn’t have cell phones, so parents would just trust us to make it back by dark. When I think of letting my nephew do the same stuff,with a cell phone, I don’t think he could pull it off.

Schools are a big part of the problem. They barely teach these kids anything. The point of public schools seems to be to give easy work so the children have high grades. That isn’t doing them any favors.

JLeslie's avatar

I think of “adolescence” by the psychological definition. It’s about being psychologically independent and separate from your parents. This is entangled with the financial dependence to some extent, but some families pull off children being psychologically independent while still not being completely out of the house or financially independent.

The cultural difference I mention about my husband’s family, well I think there is a lot of negative with their customs. My gay BIL was stuck at home, because he never pulled the trigger to marry a woman and didn’t pull the trigger to come out of the closet until he was around 40 years old.

Most of the cultures that have adult children at home a long time are fairly macho. It’s often the case that those cultures are very patriarchal. The head of the family has control, because he is supplying the money and shelter. Other cultures who have many generations in the household have everyone contributing to the family and it’s a different psychological system. I think the former is more common though. That macho set up leaves little room for children to truly think independently. Kids get married to escape.

I have a friend not from one of those cultures, but I can see her adult children struggle to be free of her. They lived at home well into adulthood, partly for financial reasons, but they certainly could have lived with a friend instead. They were working, but lowish pay. It’s good they could save by living with their mom (I’m not sure they did) I’m for that when first starting out, but my opinion is the 36 year old is just finally really completing adolescence in my opinion. He’s been out of the house 5 years, and just had an out of wedlock baby with a girl he is now living with. He just told his mom she’ll never see her grandchild again during a big fight. Believe me it’s better to have the big fights when your 16.

Her 30 year old son is an emotional wreck because his mom finally remarried and is moving 4 hours away. He had been still living with her, but will be living in with his boyfriend. They were together all the time anyway. They are in a mini panic about affording everything. She now has finally thrust him into having to be more independent, but she will still try to control them, partly with money. She doesn’t do it on purpose, she just doesn’t realize what it does to the kids.

Dutchess_III's avatar

They seem so freaking entitled any more. Jesus. Trying to make our way through Bluegrass this weekend, in a car, I could not believe that kids, people in general, wouldn’t move to the side of the Fing road to let us through. They knew we were there and they just kept their fat asses planted in the middle of the road until you got up ON them, and then they’d move over, throwing dirty looks at us.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

I see America morphing into a country of zombie-like beings. I am amazed every single day. I have very strict rules about technology, screens, and such. I make people use manners at my house and if they don’t know them I teach them….you would be surprised at the kids who have no idea about using manners, particularly regarding the table.

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