Scientists are calling for a wider definition of adolescence which they say will help policy makers accommodate this group of youth with a better understanding.
The findings published in the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal last week suggested broader adolescent years due to biological and societal changes in youths to help in drafting policies involving the group.
“Rather than age 10–19 years, a definition of 10–24 years corresponds more closely to adolescent growth and popular understandings of this life phase,” revealed the findings.
In Kenya for example, the findings could guide the reproductive health debate where questions surrounding the legality of giving contraceptives to under-ages have lingered.
The research also implies that reaching the age of 19 in effect does not mark the end of one’s adolescence years, as has been previously perceived.
According to the group of scientists studying adolescent health, the definitions calls for an expanded and more inclusive explanation of adolescence.
The researchers from the Royal Victoria Hospital in Melbourne said earlier puberty has accelerated the onset of adolescence in nearly all populations.
Also, although many adult legal privileges start at age 18 years in most countries, the adoption of adult roles and responsibilities generally occurs later.
Adolescence is the phase of life stretching between childhood and adulthood, but its actual definition has long posed a challenge.
“Adolescence encompasses elements of biological growth and major social role transitions, both of which have changed in the past century,” indicated the researchers.
Earlier puberty has accelerated the onset of adolescence in nearly all populations, while understanding of continued growth has lifted its endpoint age well into the 20s.
In common understanding, delayed timing of role transitions, including completion of education, marriage, and parenthood, continue to shift popular perceptions of when adulthood begins.
“Arguably, the transition period from childhood to adulthood now occupies a greater portion of the life course than ever before at a time when unprecedented social forces, including marketing and digital media, are affecting health and wellbeing across these years,” said the researchers.