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Adolescence now lasts from 10 to 24, scientists say

From BBC - January 18, 2018

Adolescence now lasts from the ages of 10 to 24, although it used to be thought to end at 19, scientists say.

Young people continuing their education for longer, as well as delayed marriage and parenthood, has pushed back popular perceptions of when adulthood begins.

And changing the definition is vital to ensure laws and government policy stay appropriate, they say in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.

But another expert warns doing so risks "further infantilising young people".

When puberty begins

Puberty is considered to start when the part of the brain known as the hypothalamus starts releasing a hormone that activates the body's pituitary and gonadal glands.

This used to happen around the age of 14 but has dropped with improved health and nutrition in much of the developed world to around the age of 10.

As a consequence, in industrialised countries such as the UK the average age for a girl's first menstruation has dropped by four years in the past 150 years.

Half of all females now have their period by 12 or 13 years of age.

When the body stops developing

There are also biological arguments for why the definition of adolescence should be extended, including that the body continues to develop.

For example, the brain continues to mature beyond the age of 20, working faster and more efficiently.

And many people's wisdom teeth do not come through until the age of 25.

Delaying life's milestones

Young people are also getting married and having children later.

Social policy

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