Doctors Confirm It's Hard to Grow Up, Say Adolescence Should Extend to 24

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Libyan students play in the courtyard of the al-Bashayer school in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi on December 13, 2015, as they come back to school for the first time since August 2014 when Islamist-backed militias seized Tripoli, prompting the internationally recognised government to take refuge in the far east of the country. The school is located about half kilometre away from the al-Zawiyah neighbourhood where daily clashes oppose forces loyal to Libya's recognised government and extremist militant groups. Abdullah Doma/AFP/Getty Images

Adolescence is a period of immense change and growth—and young people are taking so much longer to mature that a team of doctors are now suggesting it be officially extended to age 24.

In an opinion piece published Wednesday in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal, researchers argue that defining adolescence as ending at age 19 (this is the standard defined by the World Health Organization), "has long posed a conundrum." The team explains that young people are delaying how long it takes to complete school, get married and start a family of their own. Therefore, they recommend the current definition be altered.

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"Rather than ages 10-19 years, a definition of 10-24 years corresponds more closely to adolescent growth and popular understanding of this life phase and would facilitate extended investments across a broader range of settings," Dr. Susan Sawyer, a professor of adolescent health at the University of Melbourne, and her colleagues wrote in The Lancet.

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Libyan students play in the courtyard of the al-Bashayer school in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi on December 13, 2015, as they come back to school for the first time since August 2014 when Islamist-backed militias seized Tripoli, prompting the internationally recognised government to take refuge in the far east of the country. The school is located about half kilometre away from the al-Zawiyah neighbourhood where daily clashes oppose forces loyal to Libya's recognised government and extremist militant groups. Abdullah Doma/AFP/Getty Images

Sawyer argues that changing the definition will allow for more developmentally appropriate laws, social policies, and service systems.

But, not everyone is on board with the change. Jan Macvarish, a parenting sociologist at the University of Kent, says broadening the age range could impact young adults.

"Older children and young people are shaped far more significantly by society's expectations of them than by their intrinsic biological growth," Macvarish told the BBC, stating that there is nothing childish about spending your early 20s in college or trying out new jobs.

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By changing the definition, we could potentially risk, "pathologizing their desire for independence," she said.

Although age is a convenient way to categorize adolescence, it's not as appropriate when used to define social transitions which are an important phase during the early years of life, the WHO explains on their website. Unlike biological changes, which are quite universal, social transitions are not. Depending on culture and the society you were raised in, social changes can happen in a variety of ways and at different points in time.

The new proposal is the latest fight to change standards regarding early life development. In 2013, child psychologists in the U.K. were advised that the age range they work with should no longer cut be off at 18, but rather 25, according to the BBC.

Doctors Confirm It's Hard to Grow Up, Say Adolescence Should Extend to 24 | Tech & Science