Today’s teens drink, date less than ‘70s counterparts, study says

A study says teens today are drinking and dating less than their 1970s counterparts.

Credit: Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

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A study says teens today are drinking and dating less than their 1970s counterparts.

Credit: Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Credit: Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Teenagers aren’t in a rush to grow up. They’re not as interested in dating, snagging jobs or driving, according to a new academic study.

Researchers from San Diego State University and Bryn Mawr College conducted a study, released Tuesday, to determine how soon adolescents engage in adult activities.

To do so, they compared teenagers from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s with teens from today, using surveys that questioned more than 8 million children, ages 13 to 19, from 1976 to 2016. The poll focused on topics including sex, alcohol and part-time jobs, and it also factored in race, region and gender.

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After analyzing the results, they found that teens were not having sex, drinking or holding jobs nearly as much as those from 20 years ago.

Among eighth-graders, only about half of them had held down a job or tried alcohol, compared with those in the ‘90s. As for older teens or those in the 12th grade, the number of youth getting their driver’s license, working, drinking and dating was down nearly 20 percent, compared with those from 40 years ago.

"The developmental trajectory of adolescence has slowed, with teens growing up more slowly than they used to," Jean M. Twenge, lead author of the study and professor of psychology at San Diego State University, said in a Tuesday news release. "In terms of adult activities, 18-year-olds now look like 15-year-olds once did."

While researchers could not pinpoint why minors engage in fewer adult activities, they say homework or extracurricular activities were not a factor as those activities had decreased among eighth-and 12th-graders and was steady for 12th-graders and college students.

However, they believe their findings, which were published in Society for Research in Child Development's bimonthly journal, could be associated with increased internet and social media usage.

“Our study suggests that teens today are taking longer to embrace both adult responsibilities (such as driving and working) and adult pleasures (such as sex and alcohol),” said Heejung Park, study co-author and assistant professor of psychology at Bryn Mawr. “These trends are neither good nor bad, but reflect the current U.S. cultural climate.”

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