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Gen Z is unlike any other generation, and this 40-year study has proved it

Their attitudes to sex, drinking, going out and driving are very different to previous generations, and the reasons why are intriguing.

Gen Zers in the US aren’t drinking, having sex, going out independently or driving – at least not as much as their mums and dads did.

This is according to a new study by psychologists Jean Twenge and Heejung Park, which analysed more than eight million responses to teen surveys commissioned between 1976 and 2016.

And there was one key stand-out: 18-year-olds today behave like 15-year-olds from yesterday.  

They’re reluctant to try alcohol

“Recent adolescents,” Twenge and Park wrote, “try alcohol at older ages than adolescents in past decades.” Indeed, since 1993 there’s been a 59% decline in the number of 13 and 14-year-olds who’ve tried alcohol, a 40% decline among 15 and 16-year-olds and a 26% decline among 17 and 18-year-olds.

They’re hanging around with mum and dad more

Four decades ago, 17 and 18-year-olds ventured out without their parents around three times a week – a number that had fallen to two by 2014. This fall of (almost) a whole day was also recorded among teens aged between 13 and 16.

They’re less keen on getting behind the wheel

Not only are teens less interested in heading out independently; they’re also less willing to learn to drive. At the end of the 1970s, almost nine in 10 teenagers had a driving licence – a ratio that fell to just over seven in 10 by 2014. Interestingly, rates of decline were fairly similar in areas covered by Uber. 

They’re less interested in sex

At the beginning of the 1990s, more than half (54%) of high school students said they’d had sex. By 2015, this figure had fallen to 41%.

Kate Johnson, Stylus’ Consumer Lifestyle Editor, said that today’s global youth are “displaying more moderate behaviour than previous generations”. 

“We’re seeing teen tribes emerging that are bound by values of responsibility, pragmatism and self-sufficiency, rather than rebellion and excess.

“Their more mature outlook may be attributed to coming of age in a world of terrorism, global warming, cyber bullying, recession and 24/7 connectivity.”