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A New Theory on the Teen Mental Health Crisis

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While rising rates of teen mental health issues can’t be pinned to a single root cause, a 2023 study surfaced a compelling connection to the decline in childhood independence.

There is growing concern around the widespread mental health issues teenagers face, and while finding causes can feel nuanced, a recent study reveals a new angle - rooted in childhood development - that is gaining traction.

In 2023, researchers compiled and assessed data trends that show a decline in opportunities for children to engage in play, chores, and roles that are not directly overseen and controlled by adults. While unsupervised play and purposeful work contribute to the development of important feelings of competence, autonomy, and relatedness in childhood and adolescence, a lack of engagement with these activities potentially contributes to the alarming rise in teenage mental health issues we see today. Whatever the cause may be, children continually seek chances to grow in their confidence through independent play and exploration.

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© 2023 George Lucas Educational Foundation
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