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Teens today are children of renaissance, scholar believes

University of Toronto

A University of Toronto professor has his own theory about teenagers, and he's going way back in time to prove it. "I think we are still living in the Renaissance with regards to the attitudes and behaviours of modern teenagers," says Professor Konrad Eisenbichler of the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Science. "The changes that occurred between 1500 and 1600 were the building blocks of today."

The Premodern Teenager: Youth in Society, 1150-1650, a new collection of essays and studies edited by Eisenbichler, suggests the concept of "teenagers" began between the 13th and 17th centuries in western Europe. "The word 'teenager' is exclusive to the English language," he explains. "No other language has a similar term to identify individuals of the same age group. Before this time, women did not have a teenage-hood. Young girls were married off right at puberty, as most men wanted a virgin, whereas men didn't marry until they were financially secure, usually after age 30. This left a lot of time for males to get involved with other activities like sports, violence and crime, prostitution and same-sex relationships, and education and work."

While researchers have spent much time studying pre-modern children and childhood, more work is needed investigating the behaviour and attitudes of 13 to 24 year olds in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Eisenbichler says, to better understand the roots of teenage society.


Additional contact information: Professor Konrad Eisenbichler, Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 416-585-4486,

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