Are 18 year olds really adults or just children with more responsibility?


Turning 18 is one the biggest milestones in anyone’s life because you are becoming an adult by law and more things are open to you. Entering certain adult clubs, buying adult products, and partaking in certain activities are no longer an issue and there are only a few things stopping you from doing everything. 18 year olds are clearly adults and are treated as such. 

However, there is no difference between someone who is 17 and 18 apart from a few months. Someone who turned 18 yesterday can get charged as an adult, date anyone despite age, and become more of a contributing citizen. So is 18 really an adult or just a title given at a certain age?

“The age of majority refers to the age at which a person will be defined by law to be an adult” said Cornell Law Schools, Legal Information Institute, “ This will be accompanied by the rights and responsibilities of adulthood. The age of majority varies from state by state and from country to country. “

These responsibilities vary however because you are introduced to them from as young as 15 and it does not mean that you won’t become responsible until 18. Having a job and things alike does not make you an adult per se but a teenerager who has responsibilites.

“In the United States, you can’t drink until you are 21, but legal adulthood, along with voting and the ability to join the military, comes at age 18. Or does it? You’re allowed to watch adult movies at 17” said The Atlantic, “And kids can hold a job as young as 14, depending on state restrictions, and can often deliver newspapers, babysit, or work for their parents even younger than that.

18 does not automatically mean maturity as it comes with different ages. 18 year olds do not have the same life and sense of adulthood. Someone who is 16 could have their life more put together with working and taking care of family than someone who is 18 and has made no effort to join the real world.

Even now being an adult does not mean anything because young adults are doing these “adult” things. 

“Gen Z are consistently reaching traditional markers of adulthood such as finishing education and leaving home later than previous generations, and studies have shown that teenagers are engaging in ‘adult’ activities such as having sex, dating, drinking alcohol, going out without their parents and driving much later than previous generations” said BBC

GenZ (1997-2012) is already doing things that adults usually partake in despite being children. Adulthood can never be one thing and will always change from generation to generation. Something like having sex and drinking alchol is usually reserved for full adults, but can have influence on children.

Changing the adult age has also been something that would make more sense but it would set back every age and make it harder to transition into adulthood. 

“Most states have set the age of 18 as the age of majority. However, Nebraska (§43-2101) and Alabama have set 19 as the age of majority. Mississippi is the only state which has set the age of majority at 21 (S1-3-27). “ said Cornell Law Schools, Legal Information Institute.

Changing the mature age is something that is already been and currently done in the United States but it is only one state so it does not affect the rest of the country.  Following this model at 18 you would still have your same life and your parents would still have to be responsible for you for another three years. 

According to the University of Rochester Health Encyclopedia,  “The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so. In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part.”

The brain is not fully developed at 18 so leaving them to make adult decisions is risky for someone who has the brain of a teen and not that of an adult. The human body is not even fully developed at 18 either.

“Under most laws, young people are recognized as adults at age 18. But emerging science about brain development suggests that most people don’t reach full maturity until the age 25,” said NPR.

The body nor the brain is developed at 18 which is an even bigger reason as to why 18 is not a full adult and no one really is until their mid twenties. Even with a very clear mind at a young age your brain is still not fully developed.

Although we can not change the age of maturity we can still sanction some things to these young adults.

“Eighteen-year-old adults can run for office, go to strip clubs, be sentenced to life in prison, and volunteer to go to war or be drafted, but as of last December, they cannot vape or smoke tobacco products” said The New York Times.

Changing certain things would allow for children to be safer and for adults to be adults. So is 18 years old really an adult or just the law liable version of one?