In the United States, turning eighteen means that we are legal adults. Research, however, has found that being an adult does not happen until we are at least thirty.
According to recent studies, I, a twenty-one year old, am not quite yet an adult. Turning eighteen, I remember the excitement that came with buying a lottery ticket, but I also remember the stress. Having to register for the military and to vote, as well as knowing that doing something stupid could put me into jail with all the other “adults” was overwhelming. It was like being thrown into a whole other world. For some, the transition is easy, having slowly molded into the expectations of an adult before turning eighteen. For most, it is extremely jarring and confusing.
Science Says We’re Not Ready
Professor of Cambridge University, Peter Jones, explains, “There isn’t a childhood and then adulthood. People are on a pathway–they’re on a trajectory.” Going from a comfortable life of dependency, we’re all of a sudden, on our eighteenth birthday, thrown off a cliff. Where we land is a disturbing and frightening world known as independence. The people of that world force us to learn quickly and to forget the dependent life we once knew. Jones is suggesting this is ridiculous to do to kids who’ve yet to even have a taste of adult life.
Jones argues that it takes until about age thirty that we make the true transition from childhood to adulthood. By thirty, our brains have fully developed, and most will have gained the necessary experiences needed to make thoughtful, adult decisions.
What Does This Mean?
While I believe we should be granted certain adult freedoms at eighteen, I also think that those under thirty should be given some leniency to criticism. There is the frequent jabs at people who are in their twenties and still live with their parents. Another is the idea that someone in their twenties should already have a solid career in place. These are unfair expectations that force people in these situations to feel that they’re adulting wrong and that they need to hurry up and be what society expects of them.
To have a better transition into adulthood, some more assistance in learning how to become an adult is required. High schools should adopt classes or programs designed to teach students the fundamentals of adulthood. These could include how to construct a resume, apply for jobs, create a budget, and preparing for other real-world scenarios.
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