Experts say that adolescence now lasts from the ages of 10 to 24, although it used to be thought to end at 19.
Young people continuing their education for longer, as well as delayed marriage and parenthood, has pushed back popular perceptions of when adulthood begins.
Susan Sawyer, the chair of adolescent health at the University of Melbourne writes that compared to earlier generations, youth today are staying in school longer, marrying and having kids later, and buying a house later, The transition period from childhood to adulthood lasts far beyond age 19, when it is popularly thought to end. As a result, she writes, we should change our policies and services to better serve this population.
Changing the definition is vital to ensure laws stay appropriate, they write in an opinion piece in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.
But another expert warns doing so risks “further infantilising young people”.Puberty is considered to start when the part of the brain known as the hypothalamus starts releasing a hormone that activates the body’s pituitary and gonadal glands.
This used to happen around the age of 14 but has dropped with improved health and nutrition in much of the developed world to around the age of 10.
There are also biological arguments for why the definition of adolescence should be extended, including that the body continues to develop.
For example, the brain continues to mature beyond the age of 20, working faster and more efficiently.And many people’s wisdom teeth don’t come through until the age of 25.