With smartphones, social media, and everything we see on TV, it’s safe to assume kids are growing up super fast these days, right? Turns out, that’s not the case. According to a recent study, teens are having sex later than ever before. Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University and Heejung Park of Bryn Mawr College studied students between 9th and 12th grade over the course of 40 years — from 1976 to 2016 — and were surprised to find that teens are having less sex, dating less, and drinking alcohol less than they used to.
According to surveys of over a million students, the percentage of teens who had sex dropped in every age group between the early 1990s and the early 2010s. The rates of 12th graders, for example, dropped from 68 percent to 62 percent. For 11th graders, from 59 percent to 52 percent, and the numbers were similar for lower grades, too.
Teens are also less likely to drive, engage in underage drinking, or have an after school job. Which led the study’s authors to believe that in general, teens are “growing up” a little slower than they did back in the day.
So, why is this happening? The study’s authors noted that parents have fewer kids than they used to and are generally in more “resource-rich environments,” so they can spend more time and attention on each child — which might have something to do with kids growing up slower than ever before.
If you ask us, this is actually a pretty positive trend. Obviously, teens will eventually date and have sex (and get involved in the complicated, sometimes stress-inducing, messiness of it all), just later on in life and at their own pace. Childhood goes by fast — it’s okay to savor it while it lasts!