TEENS are growing up more slowly these days - with new research showing that the behaviour of today's 18-year-olds more closely mirrors that of a typical 15-year-old in previous decades.
They are less likely to date, have a job, leave the house without their parents, drive or have sex, a landmark US study comparing more than eight million teens between 1976 and 2016 found.
"Over-protective" parents and growing internet usage were factors in the "considerable" behavioural changes over the decades, with one child expert describing the trend as the "wussification of a generation".
The trend was so pronounced that by the early 2010s, students aged 17 to 18 went out on dates about as often as 15 to 16-year-olds used to in the early '90s.
The research, published in Child Development, found just leaving the home without mum or dad was a less common experience for today's average 18-year-old than for an eighth-grade student (aged 13 or 14) of the early 1990s. "Having sex went from being the majority experience for high school students to the minority experience," research author Professor Jean Twenge said. "The developmental trajectory of adolescence has slowed, with teens growing up more slowly than they used to.
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