“Adult”: the word you keep hearing repeatedly now that you’re 18, the word your parents threaten you with when you make a lowsy decision, the word that sums up what your future should look like. But what does it mean to be an “adult”? According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, an adult is defined as someone that is “mature and sensible, fully grown and developed.” One definition refers to the mental factors of being an adult, and the other refers to the physical factors of being an adult. Which one is it? Does it have to mean both?
Definitely not. The legal interpretation of “adult” should not be correlated with the actual aspects of being an adult. According to the law, once one is 18, one can be legally defined as an adult; this means having the ability to vote, being legally allowed to be independent of guardians, and even having the freedom to go to the doctor and signing waivers without the permission of a parent. Is this really what adulthood means? Physically being alive for 18 years? What about the social implications, the mental requirements, the moral responsibility that has to be obtained? These things are not given once a child turns 18; they must be learned and developed through a lifetime, and 18 years may not be enough to develop these skills.
Our grandparents believe that becoming an adult means getting a steady job, marrying a lifelong partner, having children, and contributing economically to the economy. Our parents believe that becoming an adult means getting an education, having a reasonable career, and eventually getting married and raising a family; however, our generation has completely switched things up. We don’t believe that getting married is a necessity to adulthood, living independently in someone’s 20’s is completely acceptable. We believe that one doesn’t have to have a steady job and that changing careers is completely acceptable. Some of us don’t even want to have kids! This just proves that society’s views of “adulthood” are forever changing, and should not be attributed to the physical aspects of becoming an adult but the mental ones.
These “mental” characteristics should include accepting responsibility for actions, being patient with and accepting of others, handling sticky situations in a confident and calm manner, and having the ability to differentiate between making rational decisions versus making decisions based on emotional impulse.
“Adulting” should not necessarily be attributed to “growing up”, because the word “growing” can be ambiguous. Becoming an adult is more similar in definition to the word “maturing“, because one can mature at any age, versus becoming an “adult” at the age of 18. According to multiple claims, the 21st century is now introducing the idea of “emerging adulthood“, a stage in life that takes place during the ages of 18-25, which is relatively similar to the manner that the 20th century introduced “adolescence” (ages 13-18) as a stage of life (Zacarés). This claim is completely valid considering not having a stable job or a serious marriage with another person for 20-somethings is completely acceptable.
The definition of “adulthood” is forever changing when it comes down to the physical aspects of growing up (marriage, jobs, kids, etc) which is why the definition of “adult” should correspond to the maturing characteristics of it instead of the tangible.
- Zacarés, Juan José, Emilia Serra, and Francisca Torres. “Becoming An Adult: A Proposed Typology Of Adult Status Based On A Study Of Spanish Youths.” Scandinavian Journal Of Psychology 56.3 (2015): 273-282. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 Sept. 2016.