UCL News


Press cutting: Teenage social problems 'due to early puberty'

27 March 2007

A growing gap between puberty and adulthood is to blame for high rates of pregnancy, binge drinking, smoking and sexually-transmitted infections among teenagers, experts said yesterday.


Dr Russell Viner [UCL Institute of Child Health] said the weakening of the family, community and religion made the difficulties worse. …

Dr Viner, whose work is published today in The Lancet medical journal, said: "A prolonged adolescence, shaped by powerful socioeconomic forces, has seen new health problems emerge.

"We now have more difficulty in defining the end of adolescence than in the past. It used to be marriage, children and financial independence. These days people are getting married later and the average age of the end of education is getting higher." …

The latest Government statistics show almost 7,500 girls under the age of 16 and 39,600 under 18s became pregnant in England in 2005.

Dr Viner said: "We need to re-think all of our age limits for young people. The age of 18 is graven in stone for doing many things but there is little biological validity for this."

Nic Fleming, 'The Daily Telegraph'