When Do You Actually Become an Adult?

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The idea of adulthood, its roles and responsibilities are changing across countries. Amongst millennials, the thought of becoming an adult can be euphoric for some or terrifying for others or even a mix of both. The chance for freedom to carve your path in life or even to just get out of the family home. On the other hand, the pressure to get a job, start a family, be responsible and conform to society’s norms can be a bit intimidating. It is a big step up from adolescence to adulthood. With today’s ever-changing society and longer life expectancy, there has been a debate over when people actually become an adult.

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What Does It Actually Mean To Be An Adult?

There are many ways you can define being an adult. If you were to put into google ‘define adult’ your reply would be something along the lines of having attained full size and strength, but there are many ways that society can define ‘being an adult.’

What Is The Biological Definition of an adult?

A human that has gone through puberty and reached sexual maturity. This explanation mainly features the inner workings of the body and biological processes.

What Is The Legal Definition?

This description is the primary definition used for being an adult and can have a severe impact on your life from entitlements to be able to take part in specific activities. The person has reached the legal age of majority.

In the US this is 17 for criminal cases and 18 for all other purposes, and in the UK, this is 18 for all purposes. However, this varies from country to country for example in Iran it is 15, and in Japan, it is 20.

The Social Definition of Being An Adult

This definition is subjective and is what society perceives to be an adult from look to behavior to their age.

The Economic Definition of Being An Adult

When you are an adult you have to pay taxes as part of your contribution to society. In the UK this happens when you are 16 and are earning over £162 per week and is known as National Insurance Tax.

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The Travel Industry Definition of Being An Adult

In the travel industry, an adult is anyone who has reached their 12th birthday on or before the day of travel. These tactics result in higher prices sometimes even when the ‘adult’ uses fewer services.

Apparently, there are many ways of defining when you become an adult and then is confused even more by certain situations such as the age of consent, marriageable age, school leaving age, drinking age, driving age, voting age, smoking age, gambling age, etc. All are having an influence.

The Adult Debate

So, what is the whole debate? Many people disagree on when they actually become an adult. Some would argue that 17-year-olds should be considered adult enough to be able to vote while talking to some university students about to graduate at 21 they would tell you that they have no idea what to do with their lives and are not adults as they can only cook bake beans.

Pros and Cons To Be An Adult

There is this ever-growing need to define being an adult without understanding what it means to be one.

Adulthood much like childhood is a social construct with many possible but non-definitive definitions, many believe you are an adult when you are mature, get a job, a house and have children, but not everyone is mature at a certain age.

Most 18-29-year olds feel in-between adolescents and adults, and it is almost considered that people are holding off adulthood because they do not have a substantial enough base to carve their path in life.

More and more adolescences are staying at home longer due to being unable to afford to move out or to consider further education options, and due to changes in society, it is supposed to increase the age of when you become an adult but some possible legal changes too.

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As children are staying at home longer, it is better, that this extends to children in care, so they can receive the same benefits and support as others. Likewise, back in 2013 psychologists acknowledged that, as the brain is still developing, adolescence now runs up to the age of 25 to treat young people.

Because people aged 18 and above still need considerable support. This implies now the new cut-off point for adulthood.

Some are concerned that we are infantizing our adults by treating them like children for longer leading to passive dependence and a lack of mature adult relationships. It is argued that adolescents have a lack of independence and need to strike it out on their own as they have it easy where they are but is this due to the economy and society we have created for young people?

Some would say that it is too complicated for young people to get a well-paid job and buy their own house, having to rely on the kindness of their parents or renting.

Concluding thoughts on adulthood,

There is no definitive, scientific answer for when you become an adult. Everyone has different levels of development and maturity, but you will get there eventually. Society must put an age on things, be that biologically, legally or in the travel industry as they cannot put everyone who wants to buy alcohol through a maturity test! But social norms are changing all the time and so the idea of being an adult will too.

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The qualities of becoming an adult include rationality, formulating and implementing goals, equality in relationships (unlike children who see the divide between themselves and adults), being active rather than passive in life and having an openness/acceptance to the world.

The main thing is to try not to worry about being a certain way at a certain age.

And remember to go your way, you have to do what is right for yourself, but you are not invincible. My last bit of advice is that the majority of us are just winging the whole adult thing!

What are your thoughts on adulthood? Leave behind your comments below. We love to hear from you! Also, do not forget to subscribe with us and stay tuned for our bi-weekly newsletter.

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Lucy is a teenager with a passion for travel. She is from a small city called Norwich in the East of England. She was three when her parents took her to Finland. Since then she has traveled to four different continents, swam with wild dolphins, jumped off mountains, and played tug of war with a tiger. Her mission is to help others travel more by sharing innovative ways how travel can be affordable and fun.