This week, the Delhi High Court took up a plea that sought a uniform age of marriage for men and women. Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 and 18 years for men and women, respectively. The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority, which is gender-neutral. An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, Read in Malayalam.
He may have floundered during young adulthood, but Henry David Thoreau turned out pretty okay. The buddy he crashed with, for the record, was Ralph Waldo Emerson. And his path was not atypical of the 19th century, at least for a white man in the United States. Young people often went through periods of independence interspersed with periods of dependence.
And yet these are still the venerated markers of adulthood today, and when people take too long to acquire them, or eschew them all together, it becomes a reason to lament that no one is a grown-up. Age alone does not an adult make. But what does? In the United States, people are getting married and having kids later in lifebut those are just optional trappings of adulthood, not the thing itself.
Psychologists talk of a period of prolonged adolescenceor emerging adulthoodthat lasts into the 20s, but when have you emerged? What makes you finally, really an adult? I set out to try to answer this to the best of my ability, but just to warn you up front: There is either no answer, or a variety of complex and multifaceted answers.
Bless my young little heart, I had no idea! Being a Millennial and trying to adult is wildly disorienting.
Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 and 18 years for men and women, respectively. the minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority, which is gender-neutral.
I am unmarried, and not settled into a long term, financially stable career. Sometimes because I simply desire those things for myself, and sometimes because Instagram. Adulthood is a social construct. For that matter, so is childhood. But like all social constructs, they have real consequences. They determine who is legally responsible for their actions and who is not, what roles people are allowed to assume in society, how people view each other, and how they view themselves. But even in the realms where it should be easiest to define the difference—law, physical development—adulthood defies simplicity.
Or does it? And kids can hold a job as young as 14, depending on state restrictionsand can often deliver newspapers, babysit, or work for their parents even younger than that.
That depends, though, on what measure you choose. For centuries, skeletal development has been a measure of maturity. Today, both dental and wrist X-rays are used to determine the age of refugee children seeking asylum—but only are unreliable. For starting, wisdom teeth typically emerge between 17 and 21, and Noel Cameron, a professor of human biology at Loughborough University, in the U. The carpals of the younger are fully developed at 13 or 14, and the other bones—radius, ulna, metacarpals, and phalanges—complete development from 15 to The female bone in the body to mature—the collarbone—does so between 25 and And environmental and socioeconomic factors can affect the rate of bone development, Cameron says, so refugees seeking asylum from developing countries may also tend to be late bloomers.
Money really matters because past a certain age it is the main determiner of what you can and cannot do. What age cultural transitions? In theory. High-school and college graduations are ceremonies deed to flip the switch, or flip the tassel, for sometimes hundreds of people at once.
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But not only do people rarely graduate right into a fully formed adult life, graduations are far from universal experiences. And secondary and higher education have actually played a large role in expanding the transitory period between childhood and adulthood. During the 19th century, a wave of education reform in the U. And byevery state had compulsory attendance laws. At about age 22 or 23, the brain is pretty much done developing, according to Steinberg, who studies adolescence and brain development.
But adult plasticity is different from developmental plasticity, when the brain is still developing new circuits, and pruning away unnecessary ones.
Plenty of brain functions are mature before this point, though. So a year-old, on average, should do just as well on a logic test as someone older. Until those connections are fully established, people tend to be less able to control their impulses.
This is part of the reason why the Supreme Court decided to put limits on life sentences for juveniles. Still, Steinberg says, the question of maturity is dependent on the task at hand. I see women go through divorce and try to find themselves afterwards. I see them trying to hold onto youth during menopause and after.
My spouse cheated on me—that was a wake up call. During my marital conflicts I started therapy wish I had done this in my 20s. My patients who seem secure through any of life struggles, those are the women who seem like adults. They still have a young soul but roll with all the changes, accepting the undesirable changes in their bodies, accepting the lack of sleep with their children, accepting the things they cannot change.
In college, I had a writing professor who I think fancied himself a bit of a provocateur—at any rate he was always trying to drop truth bombs on us. Most of them bounced right off, but there was one that cratered me. Flailing is an apt description of what happens for many people at these ages. This vagueness has led to some disagreement over whether emerging adulthood is really a distinct life stage.
Age and female fertility
He writes that in the 19th century, for girls, the time between their first period and their wedding was around five years. In it was 15 years, thanks to the age of menarche first period going down, and the age of marriage going up. Other critics of the emerging-adulthood concept write that just because the years between 18 and 25 or is it 29? Part of the reason for this may be because being a spouse or a parent seem to be less valued as necessary startings to adulthood. These three criteria have been ranked highly not just in the U.
But some cultures add their own values to the list. In China, for example, people highly valued being able to financially support their parents, and in India people younger the ability to keep their family physically safe. Of the Big Three, two are internal, subjective markers. You can measure financial independence, but are you otherwise independent and responsible?
When the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson outlined his influential stages of psychosocial development, each had its own central question to be hopefully answered during that time period. In adolescence, the question is one of identity—discovering the true self and where it fits into the world. In young adulthood, Erikson says, attention turns to intimacy and the development of friendships and female relationships.
Anthony Burrow, an assistant professor of human development at Cornell University, studies the question of whether young adults feel like they have purpose in life. He and his colleagues found in a study that purpose was associated with well-being among college students. The late teen years and early 20s are probably the best time to explore, because life tends to fill age with commitments as you age.
I went to medical school in my only 20s.
Early in the year I was called to the bedside of a man younger than I am now late at night. His partner was at the bedside, clearly a long relationship, the man clearly had HIV as well. I told him his partner was dead.
That year my fellow residents and I told every sort of relative that someone had died: spouse, child, parent, sibling, or friend. We told people they had cancer, HIV. We stayed in the hospital for 36 hour shifts.
By the start I was an adult and treated as such. And we could do it. We were young, and sometimes it showed, but none of us were children. I suppose it helped that we were all living in a big city on our modest salaries, no longer medical students.
The question of when a tree becomes a tree and no longer a sapling is obviously impossible to determine. Same with any slow and gradual process. All I can say is that the adult potential was there, ready to grow up and be responsible and able.
I think personal industry, devotion to something bigger than oneself, part of a historical process, and peers who grow with you all play roles.