So it appears today’s teens are doing less. According to various studies and surveys, fewer of them are driving or working part-time jobs. Are they just lazy? Fewer of them are drinking, having sex or getting pregnant. Are they more responsible than previous generations at that age?
In a recent piece for CNN, San Diego State psychology professor Jean Twenge proposes another theory: iGen is just taking longer to grow up.
Twenge contends that how quickly teenagers grow up – or take more interest in doing things adults are supposed to do – is dependent upon what’s happening culturally at the time of their adolescence.
Teens tend to grow up slower in eras in which parents have fewer children and spend more time nurturing their development. They grow up faster, on the other hand, in eras in which families included more children, which increased the chances that they’d have to fend for themselves.
We are currently in the former situation, Twenge notes, while the latter was more common in the mid-20th century.
Is this a good thing or bad? Twenge says it’s wise to look at it as a trade-off. While we might prefer our iGen sons and daughters to take a greater interest in driving and finding a job, the lower drinking and pregnancy rates among today’s teens are certainly a good thing.
Twenge adds, however, that a likely byproduct of this slow crawl into adulthood is that iGen is less prepared for making their own decisions in college and the workforce, and may need more guidance than previous generations – at least initially.
More guidance than millennials, you say? And we thought we were done haggling with college professors and admissions officers on our sons’ and daughters’ behalf.
So what are we to do? Set them up on a date, shove a drink in their hand and throw them the car keys? Of course not.
Like parents of all generations, we need to provide what guidance we can, to set an example through our own actions, to help them develop the social and decision-making skills they’ll need out in the adult world.
And then maybe give them a helpful shove out the door into it. We learn best by doing.