Kids today: they just don’t drink and have sex like they used to. According to a new study, young people are defying the expectations of adults yet again by failing to accelerate themselves towards adulthood with the characteristic speed of their teenage predecessors.

A new study published in Child Development, drawing on longitudinal data from millions of American teens between 1976 and 2016, finds that “in terms of adult activities, 18-year-olds now look like 15-year-olds once did”.

By “adult activities”, the authors are referring to beloved past-times like drinking and sex, as well as dating, driving and having jobs. In other words: on average, American teens today are not growing up as fast as previous generations. And the degree to which this news has been received with surprise and concern reveals an ugly side of American culture: a collective belief that the teen years should be a period of debauchery.

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