Whether the changes are positive or negative depends on the reasons for delaying adult activities, Siegel said.
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In that model a teenage boy might be thinking more seriously about marriage, and driving a car and working for pay would be important for "establishing mate value based on procurement of resources," the study said.
But America is shifting more toward the slower model, and the change is apparent across the socioeconomic spectrum, Twenge said.
To be sure, more than half of teens still engage in these activities, but the majorities have slimmed considerably.
Between 19, 86 percent of high school seniors had gone on a date; between 20 only 63 percent had, the study found.
But "if it's fear-based, obviously that's a concern."Among teenagers now, "there is a feeling you're getting of, 'Wow, the world is pretty serious, so why would I rush to immerse myself. '"Teenagers are also more conscious now about the possible repercussions of their actions, said Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families."They're starting to realize, wow, they really do have to worry about their resumes," she said. There's just so many people saying, 'Oh, it's going to be hard when you get out there.'"Her mother, Penelope Haskew, 45, feels mixed about her daughter's preference for spending free time at home with her family."On the one hand, I know she's safe, she's not out getting pregnant or smoking pot or drinking or doing all kinds of risky stuff that I can imagine would be age appropriate,"she said.
"They come in without the kind of reckless disregard of consequence that a more confident generation of kids had, who said, 'I'll drop out of school and join the peace movement, what the hell.'" With fewer career paths available to those without a college degree, she said, young people can no longer afford that kind of nonchalance."They're absorbing the same kind of anxiety about the future that their parents have for them."Chiara Power, 15, of San Juan Island, Washington, has no interest in dating, driving, working for pay or drinking alcohol - and the rising costs of college keep her up at night."I'm already panicking and having nightmares about the student loans that I'll never escape, and I'm worried that I'm going to end up homeless," she said. "They're just like, 'Dude, that's not happening for the next three years, so chill. But Haskew wonders whether her daughter is missing out on life lessons those behaviors can teach.
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Musser, who lives in Portland, Oregon, has had summer jobs but he has never drunk alcohol and says he is not curious to try.