Conferring and withholding rights is a serious matter

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Conferring and withholding rightsisa serious matter, andageseems tobe the most objective standardwecan apply.Thetrouble with creating a distinct group defined solely by ageisthatweconjure up phenomena thatdon'treally exist.Isthere really anepidemicofteenage pregnancy,orarewomenintheir teens simplyparticipating in a larger societal trend to bear childrenoutofwedlock?Crime, especially drug crime,isa multigenerational industry in whichpeopleintheir teens are active participants.Isit, then, meaningful to
16THERISEANDFALLOFTHEAMERICANTEENAGERspeakofa teenage crime problem? In 1998 Reuters reportedona scien-tific study thatpurportedtoshowtheneurological causesof"teenangst."Whattheresearchersfoundwas thatthe"teenagemind"reactstocriseswhile using a partofthe brain associatedwithimpulsive action, whileadultsma~egreater useofthe areas associatedwithrationality and experi-ence.Deepinthestory.itwasnotedthatolderteens have brain responsesclose to thoseofadults.Thereis,inotherwords,nosuch thingsas"theteenagemind,"only developinghumanminds.Untilthe twentieth century, adult expectations aEyoung people weredeterminednotbyagebutbysize.Ifa fourteen-year-old looked big andstrongenoughtodo a man'sworkona farmorina factoryormine,most people viewedhimasa man.Andifa sixteen-year-old was slowerto develop and couldn't performasa man, he wasn't one. Foryoungwomen,the issue wasmuchthe same.Tobe marriageable was the sameasbeing ready for motherhood, which was determinedbyphysical devel-opment,notage.Sometimesyoungpeople could display learning, skills,orreligiousinspiration thatwouldforce their elders to acknowledge their maturity.Theimportant thing, though, was that the maturityofeachyoungpersonwasjudgedindividually.Today's teenagers serve a sentenceofpresumed imnlaturity, regardlessoftheir achievementsorabilities.Theprodigyhasto finish high school.Thestrapping, well-developedyoungmanshows his prowessnotatworkbutonthe footballorsoccer team.Theyoungwomanwhoisready tobeamotheristold to wait a decade instead.Thatdoesn'tmeanthatwehave given up thinking about ourselvesandothersintermsofsize,onlythatthis mindset coexistsuncomfort-ablywithourpracticeofregimentedage grouping.Recentstudiesshowthatyoungpeoplewhoviewthemselvesasmorephysicallyde-velopedthantheirpeers aremorelikely than others tobesexuallyactive,todrink;andto engageinrisky behavior.Theyoftencausedisciplineproblemsinschools because they areunwilling to acceptsociety's assertion that they arenotgrownup.Theyare alsomorelikelyto attempt suicide.Today'syoungpeoplegrowtotheir full size and reach sexualmatu-rity sooner than did membersofearlier generations.Themismatchbe-tweenyoungpeople's imposing physical development and their presumedemotional, social, and intellectual immaturityisdramatic. Will thesepow-erfulyoungpeople,whoarejudgednotyet ready tojointhe adult world,
TheTeenage

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