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(Legislation has also delayed another adult activity: In the 1970s, the legal drinking age was as young as 18 in some states; it is now 21 almost universally.) To Daniel Siegel, an adolescent psychiatrist and author of “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain,” it makes sense that adolescents would “remodel” their brains to adapt to a society that has changed since the 19th century.
And as for dating: “It seems sort of ridiculous to be seriously dating someone in high school. Continuing to date through college and then eventually get married?
That seems sort of unrealistic.” Although the study did not look at people under 13, Twenge said she suspects the postponement of adult behavior begins in early childhood, starting with the decrease in children walking to school alone or playing unsupervised.
“They come in without the kind of reckless disregard of consequence that a more confident generation of kids had, who said, ‘I’ll drop out of school and join the peace movement — what the hell?
’ ” With fewer career paths available to those without a college degree, Coontz said, young people can no longer afford that kind of nonchalance. There’s just so many people saying, ‘Oh, it’s going to be hard when you get out there.’ ” Her mother, Penelope Haskew, 45, feels mixed about her daughter’s preference for spending free time at home with her family.
According to an evolutionary-psychology theory that a person’s “life strategy” slows down or speeds up depending on the person’s surroundings, exposure to a “harsh and unpredictable” environment leads to faster development, while a more resource-rich and secure environment has the opposite effect, the study said.