“Age definitions are always arbitrary,” said lead author Prof Susan Sawyer. But “our current definition of adolescence is overly restricted. The ages of 10-24 years are a better fit with the development of adolescents nowadays.”
While many of us might like to have thought our descent into the wide world of adulthood began as soon as we blew out the candles on our 18th birthday, a study suggests we're misguided. Scientists concluded because young people continue their education longer and delay marriage and parenthood that actually, adulthood doesn't begin until the age of 24.
While the traditional definition for adolescence sits between the ages of 10 and 19, scientists from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne argue the timings needs to be changed, per writings in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health study.
The reasoning? Our brains continue to mature beyond the age of 20 and many people's wisdom teeth do not come through until the age of 25. Coupled with the fact that many young people push off getting married and having children until much later, with the average age being 30 - an increase of eight years since the 1970s.
But despite these findings, other academics argue that just because young people were unmarried and still studying didn't mean they weren't fully functioning adults.
Dr Jan Macvarish, a parenting sociologist at the University of Kent, told the BBC: “There is nothing inevitably infantilising about spending your early 20s in higher education or experimenting in the world of work. Society should maintain the highest possible expectations of the next generation.”
Even Sawyer admits that classifying young people as not "responsible or capable" could have its downsides. "Such a view would risk disenfranchising adolescents and undermines their rights to fully participate in society," she said.
Plus, the age of adulthood keeps changing throughout history.
A 2019 study suggests that the age is actually 30.
Professor Peter Jones, from Cambridge University, said: "What we're really saying is that to have a definition of when you move from childhood to adulthood looks increasingly absurd. It's a much more nuanced transition that takes place over three decades."