Adolescence officially extended? UK says so.

Posted On October 1, 2013

I’ve been talking to businesses for years about “adultolescence” the phenomenon of extended adolescence that has resulted in younger generations hitting typical adult milestones, such as getting married, buying homes and starting families, at increasingly older ages. According to the BBC, the phenomenon is becoming official.

Apparently, UK child psychologists are being told to consider the age range of their patients as 0-25, rather than the traditional 0-18.  As part of the new directive, adolescence is to be broken down into three phases: early (12-14 years old), middle (15-17 years old) and late (18-25 years old).  This new categorization is similar to the controversial Affordable Care Act in the U.S., which extends eligibility for individuals to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26.

According to the BBC piece, psychologists are changing the definition of adulthood to align with new understanding of brain development and to avoid a tendency to rush youth through childhood, with pressure to achieve key milestones.

This decision to officially extend adolescence – at least as it relates to mental health – and the resulting discord it brings (read the full article, this is far from a universal decision) underscores the tension that exists in the workplace today.  There are those who seek to understand and accommodate the differences in the generations, and those who believe these differences are blown way out of proportion and the world is just getting soft.

Who is right?  Only history will tell.  In the meantime, common sense tells me understanding other perspectives and seeking common ground is more productive than sticking one’s head in the sand.

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