Adulthood now begins at 24, say scientists

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SCIENTISTS claim adulthood should now start at 24 years old as more and more young people put off work, marriage and families.

In a new study, a group of scientists argue that the end of adolescence should be pushed from age 19 to 24.

Compared to earlier generations, youth today are staying in school longer, marrying and having kids later, and buying a house later, writes Susan Sawyer, the chair of adolescent health at the University of Melbourne, in an op-ed published today in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. Changing the definition of "teenager" or "adolescent" is important in order to make sure laws remain relevant and appropriate, experts say.

"Older children and young people are shaped far more significantly by society's expectations of them than by their intrinsic biological growth", she reasons.

The new influx of hormones wakes up gonadal and pituitary glands.

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Furthermore, puberty - which is initiated by the release of hormonal signals from the brain - is now happening earlier in many more affluent countries as a result of improved health and nutrition. According to the Office of National Statistics (UK) in 2013 the average age for a man to enter first marriage was 32.5 in 2013 and the average age for women 30.6 years across England and Wales.

Around half of girls now have their first menstruation when they are 12 or 13 years old.

From a neuroscientific point of view, there may be some basis for extending the definition of this life stage, as research suggests that the cognitive development of the young can last until age 25.

And considering wisdom teeth can come through as late as 25, there's a biological argument for increasing the age bracket too. In 2013, the average age for a man to enter their first marriage was 32.5 years and 30.6 years for women across England and Wales, the report said, citing U.K.'s Office for National Statistics, which represented an increase of nearly eight years since 1973.


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