Monday, August 02, 2004
There are lots of ways of defining 'adulthood.' The most obvious definition is physical: you are physically mature sometime in your mid to late teens, give or take some years for each person (nevermind that development continues in some significant ways after that...for real biological and most all practical purposes you're an adult). Another way is when you turn 18 (in most of the West), and get to vote/not be legally bound to your parents (except for in a number of financial terms, like financial aid at colleges, f'rinstance). Or when you turn 21 and can legally drink (in the US). In Jewish tradition, you traditionally (although that's its only significance these days) become an adult at 13, with your Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Other definitions include various senses of being 'grown up.' And the meaning of that has changed a good bit recently, as well.
The American Sociological Association has released news of a study on the transition from adolescence to adulthood. It's bloody interesting. For me, the key issue is the artificial extension of childhood-like dependence well past when it seems to be biologically (and I include psychologically here too) useful or appropriate. At 15 or 16, most people could go hunt and gather (not to mention have children) effectively on their own, and certainly have the urges and instincts to do so. This is why "abstinence education" is so ineffective.
The piece mentions educational systems as part of extending early adulthood...I wonder what a similar study in Europe, for instance would see: people there live with their parents much longer than we do here, and there is not (at least in where I was in France) nearly the stigma there is here either. And what about in cultures where many generations live together at all times? Being able to provide for your family still would be a factor there, but in so many different ways.
Hmph. Too bad I didn't have time for a sociology major as well!