Should Age Alone Determine Status As An Adult?
Age 18 is often perceived as a rite of passage to adulthood because three major tasks of life are ascertained at this benchmark age:
- A location is determined (where one will reside, what one will do for a livelihood, what lifestyle will one begin),
- Values are established (personal values are sorted against a workable and meaningful philosophy of life), and
- Self-reliance develops (discovering and growing self-trust and confidence as new roles are established)
Intellectually, 18 year olds have learned to reason, analyze and question attitudes, assumptions and values. They will now transfer new skills from one setting to another. For example, they still prefer active learning experiences with peers, especially where learning relates to real life experiences.
Because young adults recognize they face a new dimension of decisions that have lifelong consequences (as they choose a college, define a major or career) they worry that they have not spent enough time garnering practical knowledge that will relate to their future.
Relationships Develop and Change
Physically, the guys grow two-to-three inches and gain about 10 pounds over the next two years. On the other hand, girls experience very little growth at this age, but they experience fluctuations in basal metabolism which can result in extreme restlessness or listlessness.
Both genders are able to take more responsibility for their sexual behavior than they did in the past. Relationships may form and dissolve as values and self-reliance firm.
Psychologically, 18 year olds are more introspective as they deal with critical life questions and are at risk of feeling alienation or conflict due to loss of or shifts in adult and peer relationships. Friends change as the high school years end. As they anticipate leaving home, they rebel less toward parents and, instead, begin to miss them. The unknown future can cause fear and apprehension.
While establishing values, young adults act on their moral and ethical choices then analyze those actions with reflection and introspection. They worry about their emotional health and remain subject to moments of extreme emotions.
Although this age is commonly characterized as adults, especially by our legal system, we need to recognize that there are developmental issues that are still changing and growing.
Parents and caregivers need to be intentional to connect young adults with other stable caregivers and resources during this uncertain time of life. Their need for guidance, relationship and emotional support is different but just as strong.
This information is taken from the research of Bettie H. Youngs, as published in her book Safeguarding Your Teenager from the Dragons of Life.
Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network