February 24, 2015
Kids these days, amirite? Sorry, not kids - fully grown adults these days, amirite? A favorite pastime of irrelevant old folks is complaining about how “young people” - those of us out of college but not yet disillusioned by life - are irresponsible. We drink too much! We won’t settle down and get married! No one’s buying a fucking house! Now, science has an explanation for our behavior. Pundits have dubbed it “kidulthood,” because old people are bad at making up names. 18, as it turns out, is not when most people become “adults:”
“It’s probably closer to 25,” said Beatriz Luna, professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. “I guess the implication is that when the environmental demands are those that require you become a responsible adult, meaning you have a lot of responsibilities to take over, that might be signaling the brain to stop a certain type of plasticity because now you really need stability and reliability.”
It all has to do with the brain, as she explains. Basically, it’s natural for teenagers to start engaging in riskier behaviors once they reach a certain age - it’s part of growing older, seeking freedom and “leaving the nest,” so to speak. Anyone who’s observed teenage boys hitting each other in the nuts for shits and giggles can attest to this.
The thing is, though, modern rites of passage aren’t the same as they used to be. These days, most kids aren’t getting kicked to the curb on their 18th birthday. Instead we go to college (where we survive off our parents), graduate and get jobs (where we continue to survive off our parents, at least in part) and then maybe even go to grad school (again, parents) if you’re really into wasting time and money.
Basically, having responsibility shuts down these urges, but the freedom to experience new stimuli make us hesitant to engage in responsible behavior. That’s why people enjoy getting blackout on a Monday well into their 20s - their brains aren’t there yet, and nothing about life is making them be responsible any faster, either.
I always enjoy research like this that lends credence to youth behavior that pisses off old people. It’s like, fuck off, no one made you get married and saddle yourself with a mortgage when you were 22. That’s not a sign that you’re responsible, it’s a sign that you’re not very interesting. Maybe pound a bottle of wine on a weeknight and live a little.
For everyone else, party on. 30 will be here before you know it. But, like, make sure you pay your rent on time, and stuff.