Why Teenagers Are Growing Up So Slowly Today

Thank you to Ann over at Holy Experience for recommending this piece:

Here’s a Twilight Zone-type premise for you. What if surgeons never got to work on humans, they were instead just endlessly in training, cutting up cadavers? What if the same went for all adults – we only got to practice at simulated versions of our jobs? Lawyers only got to argue mock cases, for years and years. Plumbers only got to fix fake leaks in classrooms. Teachers only got to teach to videocameras, endlessly rehearsing for some far off future. Book writers like me never saw our work put out to the public – our novels sat in drawers. Scientists never got to do original experiments; they only got to recreate scientific experiments of yesteryear. And so on.

Rather quickly, all meaning would vanish from our work. Even if we enjoyed the activity of our job, intrinsically, it would rapidly lose depth and relevance. It’d lose purpose. We’d become bored, lethargic, and disengaged.

In other words, we’d turn into teenagers.

This is the metaphorical vision of adolescent life Dr. Joe Allen paints in his insightful new book, Escaping the Endless Adolescence, coauthored with his wife, Dr. Claudia Worrell Allen.

Allen has concluded that our urge to protect teenagers from real life – because we don’t think they’re ready yet – has tragically backfired. By insulating them from adult-like work, adult social relationships, and adult consequences, we have only delayed their development. We have made it harder for them to grow up. Maybe even made it impossible to grow up on time.

Basically, we long ago decided that teens ought to be in school, not in the labor force. Education was their future. But the structure of schools is endlessly repetitive. “From a Martian’s perspective, high schools look virtually the same as sixth grade,” said Allen. “There’s no recognition, in the structure of school, that these are very different people with different capabilities.” Strapped to desks for 13+ years, school becomes both incredibly montonous, artificial, and cookie-cutter.

Click here to continue reading. The conclusions are interesting and illustrate why we take issue with the factory schooling model. John Taylor Gatto has written about this extensively for years, and homeschoolers already know how capable their teens are of stepping into adulthood and maturity early on when freed from the 8-hour classroom model. I found the remark about “the hovering control of their parents” an odd one, since the teens mentioned in this piece don’t seem to have a lot of parental oversight or interaction (thus the rampant drug and alcohol abuse). Reading books like Unhooked, Unprotected, and Hooked, it seems teens actually crave more parental boundaries rather than fewer. The road to adulthood is a journey best navigated with the helpful counsel and practical advice of successful, mature adults. And the road wouldn’t be such a long one if we would simply invest the time in our teens, providing them with ample opportunities to work, serve others, and “do hard things.” Much food for thought!

7 thoughts on “Why Teenagers Are Growing Up So Slowly Today

  1. What a terrific article! THIS is exactly what the Lord is having me do with our 11 year old son. I broke my arm 2 weeks ago and have turned down meals from my church. Our son is solely responsible for all the cooking, cleaning and laundry for our family. I have already noticed a slight improvement in his maturity levels! I have been calling this ‘season’ in my life “My Broken Arm Blessing”! I’m still working on the post for my blog… it takes so much longer typing with only one hand.
    ~Mrs R


  2. Has anybody noticed the titles of these last two articles?…”Why Teenagers are GROWING UP SO SLOWLY today” and “What’s driving EARLIER PUBERTY in girls?…sort of an oxy moron? : )


    1. It does sound funny if you just read the titles, but the pieces are about two totally different things. 😉 Puberty isn’t the same as “growing up.” It’s sexual maturity — not intellectual maturity. So children are hitting puberty (sexual maturity) earlier and earlier, but they are delaying adult responsibility through longer and longer adolescence. Worth reading both articles for some food for thought!


  3. Yes, Thank you, Jennie. I had read both of the articles before I posted the comment. I guess my point was…does anyone recognize that both of these articles are the antithesis of each other? Do authors title and even write such articles considering the content or the conclusions of what they lead readers to believe, but better yet, do they really hold to the belief system themselves? On the one hand, we have a world which is applauding young women/men for recognizing their sexuality and imploring them to become independent, yet do not provide a world in which they can mature and grow up into proper adults/womanhood. I know the article was simply stating statistics to bring to people’s attention, but I was wondering if anyone even considered the aforementioned? I hope this makes sense. Posting is a challenge for me to use proper wording and intent. Sorry if I caused confusion.


    1. Hello again! Yes, I that’s exactly the point we’re hoping to make — that the world is pushing children into earlier expressions of sexuality (which belong to adulthood), while at the same time holding them back from real adult responsibility that will let them grow up mentally and spiritually first. It’s terrible. We need to protect our children’s innocence and give them a well-rounded, whole view of sexuality. And we need to provide them with real, meaningful work and service as children and teens so that they mature intellectually and spiritually–not just physically. Hope that makes sense!


  4. Hi, I only read the first article ( I will read the second too, soon) this is my first time to the site and there is so much to read! I just hoped I could get some good advice for a young woman who is a young believer and has come out of the very dependent youth culture the article described. I hoped to find a “Christian Womanhood for Dummies” book or article to help her know where to start. She has been converted to Christ only recently and came out of homelessness, drug abuse and immorality. Can you tell me where to begin? I realize this may not be the right place to ask for help but I know of no other way to contact women who have experience, committment and resources that could get my friend going in the right direction. My church has gone to great lengths to help her but she seems to need more than we are equipped to give. Jennie Chancey shared that her mother has helped women like my friend so I thought she might have some good advice to give (either Jennie or her mother). Thank you for letting me share and for whatever advice you might be able to give.


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