What To Do About Extended Adolescence?

I’m not going to call John Mayer a prophet, but there is something of a quarter-life crisis that’s spreading throughout the youth of America. A lot of people in this age-range are going to school longer, delaying marriage and family, job-hopping and apartment-swapping. They’re moving back home after they get their degree to save money, traveling to faraway places to work and taking some general “me” time to decide what their future looks like. They’re looking for their “dare to be great” situation. But what is behind this phenomenon? Is it an individual or a cultural phenomenon? Or perhaps more importantly, how is this going to affect the generations ahead?

Some of the newest research in adolescent studies has said that adolescence now lasts from 11 years old to 29 years old. This is a far cry from the industrialized childhood of even just 80 years ago. When kids were on the farm, they became an adult when they were old enough to do the work. Then after the second World War, teens left the factory jobs and started going to high school and youth culture was born. Now with a bad job market, higher educational requirements, and the glorification of what can only be called the “frat boy” persona, there doesn’t seem to be any urgency to do things like “grow up” and “take responsibility”.

Early adolescent theorists describe adolescence as a time of “storm and stress” in a person’s life. Then it was thought that this storm would last only a few years — say from age 12 to about 17. But what do you do when that storm now spans 18 years? The storm and stress is a childhood unto itself. That can’t be good. At the same time, questions about the so-called “helicopter” parents play a role as well. They’re called this because these are parents that are always hovering over their child as a helicopter over… well, whatever helicopters hover over.

At the end of all of this, I have two sources and three questions:


  • Check out Robert Epstein’s book Teen 2.0. It’s an incredibly in-depth analysis of this phenomenon and offers a unique way forward.
  • There is a conference on this called Extended Adolescence Symposium. Click on the link to check out the information and support a great cause.


  • What role does individual responsibility play in extended adolescence?
  • If you serve in ministry, how do you help parents who seem to show these co-dependent tendencies?
  • What role do you think our predominantly consumer society plays in this?

I hope you can engage with some of these questions and share some experience you’ve had surrounding this prolonged adolescence.



  1. […] of kids who refused to grow up. I know I’ve talked a lot about this in a couple recent posts. But this struck me in a different kind of way. It seems incredibly pejorative. Now there is some […]

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