South Africa may be on to something by having the cut off age of the youth being 35 years old.

And now researchers have provided a number of arguments as to why the teenage age range should be expanded from between 10 and 19 years to  between 10 and 24 years. 

Life expectancy numbers may also hint towards a kind of a slower life progression. For example, in South Africa, Stats SA estimates a woman’s life expectancy to be 67 years old, compared to 16 years ago when the life expectancy in the country was 57 years old.

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The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health’s The age of adolescence research provides the following definition: “Adolescence encompasses elements of biological growth and major social role transitions, both of which have changed in the past century”. Within this understanding, the researchers argue that the definition of 10–24 years corresponds more closely to adolescent growth and the understandings of this phase of life.

Biological milestones

The Medical Xpress reports that the adolescent brain actually doesn’t stop developing until a person is well into their 20s, and that many people don’t develop wisdom teeth until the age of 25.

Social milestones

In the UK, the study found that expectations by parents and society have also changed that now many parents expect their children to live at home longer. The Medical Xpress also notes that people also marry later – and this is true for South Africa as well. According to the Mail and Guardian, referencing Stats SA data, the number of marriages registered in South Africa has decreased every year since 2008.

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The Scientific American referenced another study from San Diego State University and Bryn Mawr College, vying for the same argument that adolescence should no longer end at 19 years old. The publication notes that since around 2000, teens have become significantly less likely to drive, have to have an after-school job, to date and to go out compared to those in the 90s.

However, these studies don’t exist without nuance. The analysis found the adolescents more likely to take part in adult activities were the ones who came from larger families or those with lower incomes.

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The Scientific American also reports that, around the 2000s, children, can’t simply get a job at the local factory to succeed, but may be faced with 10-plus years of postgraduate education and crippling student debt – reality for many young adults.

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