When Does Adulthood Really Start?


Rear view shot of a group of teen friends standing happily together with their longboards

We all know that once we turn 18, we officially become adults in the eyes of the law. We are allowed to gamble, vote, open a bank account, get a tattoo, and many other things all because we are no longer bound by the permission of our parents. However, are we really adults when we turn 18, or are we just glorified children?

When we turn 18, most of us are still in our senior year of high school. We live with our parents, having them continue to provide everything for us, and we prepare for the next big step of our lives: college. Of course, college is where the real freedom begins. Most of us will live on campus, away from our families, and are forced to make sure we take care of ourselves. So is that when adulthood really begins?

The Atlantic reports that age does not equivocate adulthood. In fact, finding a definitive definition as to when we actually reach adulthood proved to be a more difficult task than they expected. There are a lot of different circumstances where restrictions change based on your age. At age 15, you are allowed to begin work. At age 16, you are allowed to get your learner’s permit. At age 17, you are allowed to see R-rated movies without an adult present. At age 18, you are considered an adult and can vote, gamble, etc. At age 21, your last restriction is revoked, and you are allowed to drink. Shouldn’t an adult be a person who is free of restrictions? However, if we were to go by that, can we truly call 21-year-olds adults?

Maturity can be a good indicator as to who is truly an adult. Testing maturity is a difficult task, so legally, we cannot base adulthood on maturity. However, socially, we could. We could look at a person and deem them an adult based on our interaction with them. Of course, this would create variations as some people may consider you an adult where others could see you as not quite there yet.

Religion also poses another barrier when it comes to defining adulthood. Many religions have ceremonies that define a person becoming an adult in the eyes of the religion. While this can vary based on religion, most are generally around the age of 13. Calling a 13 year old kid an adult seems kind of absurd; most 13 year olds are still in middle school and can’t even drive. How could we possible define adulthood at the age of 13 when 13 year olds still don’t have many of the freedoms that legal adults have?

Of course, students have their own opinions on this matter. Ethan Williams, Michael Brassard, and Annie Esenova are all “adults” in the senior class. However, none of them feel as though they are adults.”I do not feel like an adult because I am still very reliant on my family,” comments Esenova. “I would not be able to survive on my own without the constant support of my family.”

Brassard agrees stating, “I would say that I am capable of being adult but it is still a terrifying idea. While I am becoming a more independent individual I still have a lot to learn and understand about the world around me. To be honest I am not sure if I will ever be “an adult” but I hope to play my role in a very confusing and ever changing world.”

Williams and Esenova both agree that 21 should be the age in which people should be considered adults. Williams comments, “If there’s a right that 21 year olds have that 18 year olds don’t, then the 18 year olds are not fully adults in the eyes of the law. 18 is only the age because of the draft in the Vietnam War.”

“At the age of 21 you are granted all the rights you were once denied,” comments Esenova. “If as an 18 year old you are not held to the same rights as a 21 year old you should not be defined as an adult.”

The short answer to whether or not 18 year olds are adults is simply no. Even those who are technically adults now do not see themselves as true adults. While we may all be deemed adults at the age of 18, it does not seem like any of us are truly adults by then.