The BBC reported on an opinion piece in the Lancet which argues that the category of adolescence should be extended at the upper end from 19 to 24 years of age. The authors claim that biological evidence and social changes require a more protective response towards young adults.
My full response was as follows:
‘There are multiple problems with further infantilising young people by extending the category of adolescence.
Older children and young people are shaped far more significantly by society’s expectations of them than by their intrinsic biological growth. Society should maintain the highest possible expectations of the next generation, otherwise growing up becomes meaningless and the achievement of adulthood becomes confused by a mess of protections rather than defined by the gaining of exciting rights and the opening up of new opportunities.
We should be looking to reconnect the generations, not increase the buffer zone between them. There is nothing inevitably infantilising about spending your early twenties in higher education or experimenting in the world of work. What we expect of young adults is what matters: taking them seriously, encouraging them to take risks and being understanding of youthful mistakes would be far more conducive to inspiring the next generation than measuring their brains for signs of maturity while cosseting them in a state of preserved babyhood.
As a parent of adolescents, I observe that, fortunately, most young people do still aspire to growing up and gaining their freedom. We should play to this great human strength and continually demand more from the inspiring freshness of youth. Otherwise, we risk pathologising this desire for independence as somehow too risky and out of step with their neurological development.’
I was also interviewed on BBC World Service in dialogue with Professor Susan Sawyer, one of the authors of the Lancet piece. It is in this recording
at 45mins, 20 seconds.
The story was also picked up in the following places:
The Daily Mail