Having been in youth ministry for over sixteen years I’m concerned with seeing adolescence being stretched out.  Pre-industrial revolution there was no such thing as adolescence.  Either you were a child or you were a young adult.  When I started in youth ministry, adolescence was typically seen to be 12 or 13-18.  With early adolescence being 13-15 and late being 15 or 16 to age 18-19. 

Now adolescence is being extended earlier age 11 or 12 and when it ends there is a matter of opinion with some saying 22-25.  Now you have early adolescence which covers middle school, mid adolescence which covers high school and late adolescence being college-age to 25 (depending on who you ask).  Some add another category – “emerging adulthood” which can last to age 30.

It would seem that on one hand we have children entering this stage far too young with the average age of puberty coming earlier, especially for girls.  For instance, in 1900 the average age for the onset of menstrual periods in girls was 15.  Now the average age is 12 1/2 years of age).  In some cases this can occur with girls as young as 9.

On the other hand it seems like you have kids that don’t want to grow up.  This hasn’t been my life experience, but I know that I am somewhat rare in my generation.  At 36 I’ve been married for 15 years, have three kids with my oldest being in 7th grade.  I was married at age 21.  Most people I know who are my age have kids far younger than mine, and often times didn’t get married until their mid to late 20s.  I know there are many reasons for this.  Historically, however, this is unprecedented.

Newt Gingrich thinks that we should end adolescence as a social experiment:

It’s time to declare the end of adolescence. As a social institution, it’s been a failure. The proof is all around us: 19% of eighth graders, 36% of tenth graders, and 47% of twelfth graders say they have used illegal drugs, according to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan. One of every four girls has a sexually transmitted disease, suggests a recent study for the Centers for Disease Control. A methamphetamine epidemic among the young is destroying lives, families, and communities. And American students are learning at a frighteningly slower rate than Chinese and Indian students.

The solution is dramatic and unavoidable: We have to end adolescence as a social experiment. We tried it. It failed. It’s time to move on. Returning to an earlier, more successful model of children rapidly assuming the roles and responsibilities of adults would yield enormous benefit to society.

Prior to the 19th century, it’s fair to say that adolescence did not exist. Instead, there was virtually universal acceptance that puberty marked the transition from childhood to young adulthood. Whether with the Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah ceremony of the Jewish faith or confirmation in the Catholic Church or any hundreds of rites of passage in societies around the planet, it was understood you were either a child or a young adult.

Read the rest.  HT: Joe Carter for article.

I encourage you to read the entire article as he has some good ideas to accomplish this.  I would have to agree with him that adolescence, as it exists today, does not adequately prepare kids to enter adulthood.  This is one, of several reasons, why my wife and I home educate.  While understanding that this isn’t for everybody; we recognize that the way our school system is set up today doesn’t mimic real life.  In what other setting are we surrounded with people the same age and life stage? 

In home education settings our older kids help with the younger.  They are part of activities and groups that have a variety of ages.  They have many adults investing in their lives.  Also another theme in Dr. Gingrich’s article is responsibility.  Kids need the opportunity to have real responsibility to give them life experience that will prepare them for adulthood.  This is often done with families that home educate with some high school age kids taking college credit, apprenticeships, non-typical teenage jobs (since they have more availability), and some families create at-home businesses that the kids run.

Could something like this happen in other educational settings?  I think so, but it would take some thinking outside the box.  Also, even in those settings ultimately this boils down to being the parents’ role.  How can we better equip parents to do this?

What do you think?

60 comments
  1. Shane, I think you may be playing to a limited audience, but good luck with this. I do feel cheated in that you used an inflammatory headline for an article in order to direct people to this site of yours. If I’m not mistaken honesty is one of those things that is considered one of God’s big ten. But then you know that.

  2. Shane, I think you may be playing to a limited audience, but good luck with this. I do feel cheated in that you used an inflammatory headline for an article in order to direct people to this site of yours. If I’m not mistaken honesty is one of those things that is considered one of God’s big ten. But then you know that.

  3. Exactly how is the title misleading? I cite an article by Newt Gingrich that is about “ending adolescence”? I thought that it was a great title for the blog that represented the content of the post. I also think it is one thing to think that the post deserved a better title, but it is quite another to suggest that I was deliberately being misleading (which I wasn’t and I don’t believe the title is misleading). I find that insulting.

  4. Exactly how is the title misleading? I cite an article by Newt Gingrich that is about “ending adolescence”? I thought that it was a great title for the blog that represented the content of the post. I also think it is one thing to think that the post deserved a better title, but it is quite another to suggest that I was deliberately being misleading (which I wasn’t and I don’t believe the title is misleading). I find that insulting.

  5. I was referring to the ‘Faux Marriage’ title, which if it wasn’t meant to be inflammatory and direct people here, then it did a pretty good job of unintended consequences. Only you and God know how honest you are.

  6. I was referring to the ‘Faux Marriage’ title, which if it wasn’t meant to be inflammatory and direct people here, then it did a pretty good job of unintended consequences. Only you and God know how honest you are.

  7. This post had a Faux Marriage title on Des Moines Register?

    That’s a mistake. I’ll fix it.

    Sorry!

    Update: I just checked the Register – I assume that is where you are coming from. The title there was “Ending Adolescence”, not “Faux Marriage” and the link was ok. The “Faux Marriage” post was a different post. So you must have clicked the wrong link.

  8. This post had a Faux Marriage title on Des Moines Register?

    That’s a mistake. I’ll fix it.

    Sorry!

    Update: I just checked the Register – I assume that is where you are coming from. The title there was “Ending Adolescence”, not “Faux Marriage” and the link was ok. The “Faux Marriage” post was a different post. So you must have clicked the wrong link.

  9. This is a great subject, I think that culture itself has been changing and college is the new high school, grad school the new college. Instead of us heading out into the job force at the ripe age of 18, we’re heading out at age 22, 23, 24, 25… 26??? It kind of offsets the reality that you actually have to foot the bills for yourself. Your parents and your college loans are no longer going to support you. That is one of the many reasons why I think that this is epidemic in society today. Our pastor just hit on this a few months ago.

  10. This is a great subject, I think that culture itself has been changing and college is the new high school, grad school the new college. Instead of us heading out into the job force at the ripe age of 18, we’re heading out at age 22, 23, 24, 25… 26??? It kind of offsets the reality that you actually have to foot the bills for yourself. Your parents and your college loans are no longer going to support you. That is one of the many reasons why I think that this is epidemic in society today. Our pastor just hit on this a few months ago.

  11. The article you wrote that was entitled ‘Faux Marriage’ on the Register website that did indeed direct people to this site.

  12. The article you wrote that was entitled ‘Faux Marriage’ on the Register website that did indeed direct people to this site.

  13. Aquariman,

    I just checked. It was fine and had “Ending Adolescence” as the title. I’ll check the “Faux Marriage” post that is there in case it is doing something screwy, which the DM Register blog platform has been known to do.

  14. Aquariman,

    I just checked. It was fine and had “Ending Adolescence” as the title. I’ll check the “Faux Marriage” post that is there in case it is doing something screwy, which the DM Register blog platform has been known to do.

  15. As I said before, Shane, I was referring to your article on the Register website the other day that directed me here. There is no computer problem.

  16. Aquariman,

    I have checked and double checked both the “Faux Marriage” post and the “Ending Adolescence” post at my blog at the Des Moines Register and the links are working just fine and take you to the appropriate posts here. I don’t know what the problem is on your end.

    But it is your problem.

  17. As I said before, Shane, I was referring to your article on the Register website the other day that directed me here. There is no computer problem.

  18. Aquariman,

    I have checked and double checked both the “Faux Marriage” post and the “Ending Adolescence” post at my blog at the Des Moines Register and the links are working just fine and take you to the appropriate posts here. I don’t know what the problem is on your end.

    But it is your problem.

  19. Sorry, bud, you invited us in. Had you used a less inflammatory method you might get some sympathy. As with RickL, I’ve sent your addy to several organizations. The rest is up to you.

  20. Sorry, bud, you invited us in. Had you used a less inflammatory method you might get some sympathy. As with RickL, I’ve sent your addy to several organizations. The rest is up to you.

  21. OK. I’ll try to get back on topic. But since I am a 53 year old man in his first semester of seminary, I am not sure I can keep the ages of life in their proper perspective.

    I look at what youth face today as far as exposure to information and people and it is coming at them faster than ever in greater quantities. I think we have to rethink how we interact in society and what we consider adult as through the various social media age is not often apparent and can be easily masked.

    I do not know if it means ending adolescence, but clearly exposure to the world in an unfiltered and unsupervised way requires that our children be equipped to hanlde interaction or at least flag dangerous situations in a way my old boomer generation never had to think about.

  22. OK. I’ll try to get back on topic. But since I am a 53 year old man in his first semester of seminary, I am not sure I can keep the ages of life in their proper perspective.

    I look at what youth face today as far as exposure to information and people and it is coming at them faster than ever in greater quantities. I think we have to rethink how we interact in society and what we consider adult as through the various social media age is not often apparent and can be easily masked.

    I do not know if it means ending adolescence, but clearly exposure to the world in an unfiltered and unsupervised way requires that our children be equipped to hanlde interaction or at least flag dangerous situations in a way my old boomer generation never had to think about.

  23. Not at all do I think that is is healthy, however how do we change this trend? People are also marrying later in life and having children later in life, plastic surgery earlier, etc it just seems that we’re progressively stretching out our “youth” to make us feel younger. And I have seen firsthand some people’s depression when they actually face “growing up” and I’ve seen good choices and I’ve definitely seen the bad ones as well.

  24. Not at all do I think that is is healthy, however how do we change this trend? People are also marrying later in life and having children later in life, plastic surgery earlier, etc it just seems that we’re progressively stretching out our “youth” to make us feel younger. And I have seen firsthand some people’s depression when they actually face “growing up” and I’ve seen good choices and I’ve definitely seen the bad ones as well.

  25. @Andy – I agree with you, and I don’t think Gingrich was talking about just throwing kids “out there.”

    @Joshua – say hi to Angie for me :). Ultimately I think it needs to start at home. It is going to require that the home becomes the primary educator. I’m not talking about home education here (even though that may be a solution for some), but parents taking ownership of imparting life skills into their kids.

    Have kids from an appropriate age make contributions at home. Give them real responsibilities. Stop this constant segregation by age. This will impact how we do youth ministry as well – more opportunities for intergenerational activity… emphasize mentoring – life coaches (apprenticeships, etc). Involve kids as they demonstrate spiritual maturity in the life of the church. Have real accountability.

    Raise expectations in the home, in the Church and at school. Challenge their minds. Have rites of passage… make it clear that they are being prepared for adulthood.

    You had mentioned school costs etc… possibly incorporate college credit while they are in high school. Teach kids to save ahead of time… look for scholarships. Perhaps start in community college, or go to school part-time and work their way through. Even perhaps go an alternative route.

    Also if kids while in their teens are taught a skill or encouraged to do an at-home business, etc. That could help fund their way through school.

    Teach them early on about budgeting, fiscal responsibility, etc.

    Just some thoughts. Not saying this would be easy by any means.

    I remember hearing this 18 year-old who worked on his dad’s farm. His dad told him when he was 16 (he was homeschooled). You are doing a man’s work, so I’m going to pay you a man’s wage. So this kid was making the same amount of money as his dad’s other hired hands. Obviously not everybody can do this, but this is a great example.

    Another thing too… we don’t want to through 13-18 year-olds to the wolves, but we need to stop coddling them as well.

  26. @Andy – I agree with you, and I don’t think Gingrich was talking about just throwing kids “out there.”

    @Joshua – say hi to Angie for me :). Ultimately I think it needs to start at home. It is going to require that the home becomes the primary educator. I’m not talking about home education here (even though that may be a solution for some), but parents taking ownership of imparting life skills into their kids.

    Have kids from an appropriate age make contributions at home. Give them real responsibilities. Stop this constant segregation by age. This will impact how we do youth ministry as well – more opportunities for intergenerational activity… emphasize mentoring – life coaches (apprenticeships, etc). Involve kids as they demonstrate spiritual maturity in the life of the church. Have real accountability.

    Raise expectations in the home, in the Church and at school. Challenge their minds. Have rites of passage… make it clear that they are being prepared for adulthood.

    You had mentioned school costs etc… possibly incorporate college credit while they are in high school. Teach kids to save ahead of time… look for scholarships. Perhaps start in community college, or go to school part-time and work their way through. Even perhaps go an alternative route.

    Also if kids while in their teens are taught a skill or encouraged to do an at-home business, etc. That could help fund their way through school.

    Teach them early on about budgeting, fiscal responsibility, etc.

    Just some thoughts. Not saying this would be easy by any means.

    I remember hearing this 18 year-old who worked on his dad’s farm. His dad told him when he was 16 (he was homeschooled). You are doing a man’s work, so I’m going to pay you a man’s wage. So this kid was making the same amount of money as his dad’s other hired hands. Obviously not everybody can do this, but this is a great example.

    Another thing too… we don’t want to through 13-18 year-olds to the wolves, but we need to stop coddling them as well.

  27. Part of the reason I joined the Navy is because it made sure that I grew up before I headed to college.

    Seven years, a wedding and many online classes later, I still haven’t made it to a real college. ;^p

    My husband went to college until he ran out of savings and realized he needed to grow up, then enlisted in the Navy. Right now, he’s signed up with the Air Force Reserve and is training to take a job on an air force base.

    There are routes folks can take to force themselves to grow up– I’m not sure what the civilian version would be, though!

  28. Part of the reason I joined the Navy is because it made sure that I grew up before I headed to college.

    Seven years, a wedding and many online classes later, I still haven’t made it to a real college. ;^p

    My husband went to college until he ran out of savings and realized he needed to grow up, then enlisted in the Navy. Right now, he’s signed up with the Air Force Reserve and is training to take a job on an air force base.

    There are routes folks can take to force themselves to grow up– I’m not sure what the civilian version would be, though!

  29. I think one of the problems with “ending adolescence” is that there are huge differences between children and teens, and huge differences between teens and adults.

    Hormones are a raging, they are into complex intellectual thoughts but it’s still skewed toward immaturity…

    Really, the reason adolscence exists as a category is because the dynamics are so different. It isn’t just some short transitional stage…its a tempestuous little sea.

    That said, I don’t believe in coddling teens. Nor do I think that all of them should be “on their own” the moment they hit 18. It’s all relative.

    For example, my parents didn’t require (or want) me to have a job in high school until the summer before my first year of college. But it was clearly understood that I would work during college and every summer in between my college years if for no other reason than to build up money I could use for miscellaneous expenses while away at school.

    I don’t agree at all with trying to extend adolscence past the teens, though I will admit that a lot of early 20-somethings are pretty immature, regardless of whether they’ve been “coddled” by parents or not.
    😉

  30. I think one of the problems with “ending adolescence” is that there are huge differences between children and teens, and huge differences between teens and adults.

    Hormones are a raging, they are into complex intellectual thoughts but it’s still skewed toward immaturity…

    Really, the reason adolscence exists as a category is because the dynamics are so different. It isn’t just some short transitional stage…its a tempestuous little sea.

    That said, I don’t believe in coddling teens. Nor do I think that all of them should be “on their own” the moment they hit 18. It’s all relative.

    For example, my parents didn’t require (or want) me to have a job in high school until the summer before my first year of college. But it was clearly understood that I would work during college and every summer in between my college years if for no other reason than to build up money I could use for miscellaneous expenses while away at school.

    I don’t agree at all with trying to extend adolscence past the teens, though I will admit that a lot of early 20-somethings are pretty immature, regardless of whether they’ve been “coddled” by parents or not.
    😉

  31. We expect too little of our children. Having lived among a tribe in Venezuela I saw this vividly.
    In the tribe preschool age children are often sent to the gardens with their mothers and under her watchful eye, the pre-schoolers care for the infants! The8-12 year olds will be left back at the house to cook and do chores, which they are quite capable of. The young ‘teenagers’ are married and having children by 15-18 years old.
    I myself married at 18 my husband was 21. Interestingly enough,my two oldest have married at those same ages. When they went to the US for college they were appalled by the immaturity of their classmates. Both married people 5 years older than they were due to this fact.

  32. We expect too little of our children. Having lived among a tribe in Venezuela I saw this vividly.
    In the tribe preschool age children are often sent to the gardens with their mothers and under her watchful eye, the pre-schoolers care for the infants! The8-12 year olds will be left back at the house to cook and do chores, which they are quite capable of. The young ‘teenagers’ are married and having children by 15-18 years old.
    I myself married at 18 my husband was 21. Interestingly enough,my two oldest have married at those same ages. When they went to the US for college they were appalled by the immaturity of their classmates. Both married people 5 years older than they were due to this fact.

  33. While I appreciate your point, Jungle Mom, not everyone is ready for marriage at 19, 19, 20 or even 21…and marriage itself, and not even childrearing, creates maturity.

    My folks married relatively young, and end up split up by the time I was 3 and a half. And lack of maturity was a big factor in that.

    As for expecting too little of our children, I think a lot of it is about context. What is needed of a child in an agrarian vs. urban, or in a second-world, third world or first world setting, isn’t going to be the same.

  34. While I appreciate your point, Jungle Mom, not everyone is ready for marriage at 19, 19, 20 or even 21…and marriage itself, and not even childrearing, creates maturity.

    My folks married relatively young, and end up split up by the time I was 3 and a half. And lack of maturity was a big factor in that.

    As for expecting too little of our children, I think a lot of it is about context. What is needed of a child in an agrarian vs. urban, or in a second-world, third world or first world setting, isn’t going to be the same.

  35. Deacon Blue, Of course, few are ready at that age…but perhaps they should be! In the last century that would have been the norm but now our children are not maturing and we as parents are enabling that.

  36. Deacon Blue, Of course, few are ready at that age…but perhaps they should be! In the last century that would have been the norm but now our children are not maturing and we as parents are enabling that.

  37. Jungle Mom…there was once a time when girls were routinely married out just about right after they started menstruating. Would you advocated that girls drop of of school as soon as they are fertile? I suspect not.

    My point is that society changes and what society needs from people changes. We are in a time (in the First World, at least, which is all I can speak of with direct experience) where education is needed, and typically needed past high school. Even in the trades, you need to go to some kind of school to pick up the skills you reall need to succeed.

    People also live longer, and early marriage and childrearing not only could create greater problems (not so easy to support large families in the modern economy) but also, depending upon how young folks marry, can put young ladies at greater health risks regarding childbirth.

    People like to look at the past as some Golden Age. Yeah, in my parents’ generation and earlier, folks married younger. But were those marriages as solid as they could have been at their emotional core? I can’t speak to that myself, but I wonder. Might domestic violence and excessive anger toward children possibly have been a result of marrying young? I suspect more than a little of that was the case.

    We can learn from history and we sometimes need to emulate history. But we must also realize that some things of the past are better not repeated. At least not across the board.

  38. Jungle Mom…there was once a time when girls were routinely married out just about right after they started menstruating. Would you advocated that girls drop of of school as soon as they are fertile? I suspect not.

    My point is that society changes and what society needs from people changes. We are in a time (in the First World, at least, which is all I can speak of with direct experience) where education is needed, and typically needed past high school. Even in the trades, you need to go to some kind of school to pick up the skills you reall need to succeed.

    People also live longer, and early marriage and childrearing not only could create greater problems (not so easy to support large families in the modern economy) but also, depending upon how young folks marry, can put young ladies at greater health risks regarding childbirth.

    People like to look at the past as some Golden Age. Yeah, in my parents’ generation and earlier, folks married younger. But were those marriages as solid as they could have been at their emotional core? I can’t speak to that myself, but I wonder. Might domestic violence and excessive anger toward children possibly have been a result of marrying young? I suspect more than a little of that was the case.

    We can learn from history and we sometimes need to emulate history. But we must also realize that some things of the past are better not repeated. At least not across the board.

  39. Deacon Blue, No I am not recommending that.
    I just feel that by 18 a young lady should be involved in more than trips to the mall. A young man of twenty should be working towards a future, not spending his pay check on paint ball. I would think getting an education would be a sign of maturity.
    What I observed as the norm in the US last year, is a postponement of maturing to the point of preparing for life rather than living for diversion.
    That is all I meant to imply. Not that girls should not get an education. I went to college and so did my daughter but it would have been easier single.

  40. Deacon Blue, No I am not recommending that.
    I just feel that by 18 a young lady should be involved in more than trips to the mall. A young man of twenty should be working towards a future, not spending his pay check on paint ball. I would think getting an education would be a sign of maturity.
    What I observed as the norm in the US last year, is a postponement of maturing to the point of preparing for life rather than living for diversion.
    That is all I meant to imply. Not that girls should not get an education. I went to college and so did my daughter but it would have been easier single.

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