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Is an 18 year old person really mature enough to be considered an adult?

Updated on February 12, 2013

So you think you’re an adult?

Hello, I am a Father. For the record, my definition of a Father is not a person who donates a bodily fluid, then goes on his merry way neglecting the life and/or lives left behind. No, a Father is someone who is there day after day, bent upon being there to love his children, and to offer up his wisdom which has been learned through the ages on the field of hard knocks. Now, just because we offer that wisdom does not imply our children will hear, accept, understand or put into practice any part of that wisdom. Far too often it falls upon deaf ears, and we are relegated to the sidelines while our children, whom we love more than anything else on this earth, force themselves through the same, or very similar, situations that we tried to prevent. So, we watch and wait, knowing, or hoping, that at some point they will come back to us, sometimes in tears, asking us to make it all better. What I am now speaking of is that curious and often painful age called eighteen years of age. So many things are happening at or around that age that many of our children say and do things that we would have bet our life savings on that they would never have said or done. There are growing pains which occur before that age in life: sixteen and driving; thirteen and no longer a child; nineteen and about to leave the teen years behind. But nothing I have come in contact with approaches the age of eighteen. That age beats the others hands down. That being said, per our wonderful government, at this self same age our children are considered adults, and are eligible to become killers; to decide on the future of our country and our government; or to infest their bodies with tobacco; or even worse.

Lest you feel that I am not qualified on this subject, allow me to quantify myself. To begin with, I lived through this time period myself, and survived more or less intact. I dated, fell in “love” (ah, the pains of that timeframe boggle the mind!), had a job working forty hours a week, went to school, and generally did everything a person of that age could do or be exposed to in the mid to late 70’s. While I did not smoke, drink, or do drugs, I associated with many who did all of these things on a daily basis. I raced my car, and placed myself into situations from which I was fortunate enough to learn from without destroying my future. Many I knew failed to learn, and have now gone the way of the dodo.

In addition, I am the father of no less than eight, yes I said eight, children. My first marriage ended in divorce after twelve years and three sons. If there was a mistake to be made as a parent, we made it. Once the divorce was final, I did my best to be a Father to my boys, but fate intervened, and even though I felt I made the correct choices regarding them and their mother, in the end they chose their mother. Why, I have no idea. She drinks, smokes, has (and may still) used marijuana, has not maintained a steady job since 1984 (although in one 12 month period worked at 18 different jobs, quitting or being terminated at each inside of a week), and later married a man who lived off the government due to his heart issue. The heart issue in question was due to his heavy use of illicit drugs, which damaged his heart to a point where he fulfilled the qualifications our government have set forth in order to become disabled. Quite a “Leave it to Beaver” family, don’t you think? But none the less, they wanted that life style. The eldest did make it into college, only to fail to receive his diploma due to quitting just short of the requirements. Why, I don’t know. The middle child dropped out of high school, and eventually married. His wife became pregnant after they were married, and when I spoke with him concerning their future, and the fact that they needed an income to provide for this child, he informed me that “he was going to give his wife the gift of having a job, and caring for him and the child.” The GIFT of having a job, while he sat at home playing video games? Yes, he was eighteen at the time this occurred. Does this seem to be an adult decision? It certainly doesn’t to me. The youngest son also dropped out of high school, and to my knowledge, neither of them has returned to even gain their GED. Yet, they have the opportunity to vote on our leaders, to enlist in the military and fight in wars, and to smoke should they so desire. But they cannot legally drink; no, that is too far out of their age bracket. In short, they are adults according to every requirement our society has declared necessary. Yet, their mentality is such that they are unable even to acknowledge the need for an education, a job, or any normal way of life in what I feel to be what our civilization demands. Now, I do not advocate drinking at such an age, but by the same token, neither do I believe these children are ready intellectually to go to war, to smoke, or to vote.

Let’s speak on the privilege that is voting for a moment. Once you turn eighteen in the United States of America, you are able and expected to vote; even though some of the youth that are of age are still in high school! In times past, when our country was founded, people lived a much harder and shorter life, so perhaps this age was appropriate. People of that earlier time expected to live perhaps forty to fifty years of age, thereby only able to vote for about half of their lives. They were more informed and worked far harder at a job earning pay than a large group of youth today. Today, our youth do not work nearly as much, either at home or at a job. Rather, they spend a vast amount of their time playing video games, “hanging out” with friends, or other non-sensical, non-value adding pastimes such as this. This is not to say there are not informed, intelligent, moral eighteen year olds in America today: there are. I’ve met some, and they are ready to take on the world head on. But there are far more who could care less about others, including their families. Look around you: look into the eyes of our youth today. They are so consumed with themselves they cannot see the values we have attempted to impart in them; values which will serve them well for the rest of their lives, and serve America well. So, perhaps we should change the age of what is considered to be an adult to a much more appropriate age of twenty one. After all, it is at this point in our lives that our government has declared us of age to drink alcohol. Surely killing ourselves with tobacco usage or killing our own kind in warfare equates to the age of drinking, don’t you think?

Now, I’m going to show a direct result of this voting at eighteen. In our town, which was hit by a massive tornado just over a year ago, the high school seniors have literally changed the course of our fair city. Our school district was devastated by the loss of numerous school buildings, and even though the insurance paid for what was lost, the administration decided that is was insufficient for what their vision of the schools should be. By in excess of $60,000,000.00. So they appealed to the voters during the election this spring. The proposal was to increase the tax on habitations within the city limits, so as to raise sufficient capital to build a bright and shiny, and highly technologically advanced, school district. It will be one of the best in the state, they say. However, the populous were very concerned, for the tornado had stripped away many homes and businesses, and insurance was not always covering the bills incurred. Money was tight. Oh, there were donations coming in and a tremendous amount of volunteers ready, willing, and able to help clean up after the disaster; but due to the loss of homes and businesses, the fact remained that there was less income actually in the pockets of a great many of our citizens. The administration felt the undercurrent of hesitation of the population who knew they were not going to be able to incur this additional hardship for years to come. Why not build a good, solid school with just the money received from the insurance settlement, we asked? No good answer was forthcoming. So, the administration knew they had to do something extreme to get what they desired. They set forth on an ingenious scheme to gain voters who they knew would support them: the students who would be graduating that year. They played heavily upon the students who had lost their high school, and built in them a desire to “make it better” for the remaining students. They held rallies to have the graduating class of in excess of 400 eighteen year olds to be qualified as voters. They held fundraisers to gain support. They fed the students donuts and such in order to gain their support. It worked. The vote passed by 47 votes. The eighteen year old student: children of the community with no property taxes to speak of voted for the rest of the community to support this vision for a high school that the majority of the citizens who would be required to pay the taxes for it did not want. Did they think about what additional hardships they were thrusting on their parents and grandparents; aunts and uncles? No, not for a moment did they take into consideration others needs or feelings. They were high on the pride that goes with a school which was destroyed, and even though they themselves will never attend the new school, and most likely never pay a penny towards the bill they voted in, they said “it’s okay for you to pay for it. We won’t, but you do it!” Is this an adult decision, this thinking so much of yourself and not for your fellow man? Not to me. It speaks of the general childhood these children are still abiding in; not working for and paying their way; not caring for the majority of their fellow citizens, but rather only looking out for themselves. Not a mature decision at all.

Another situation which has erupted in our household involves our eldest son. When I remarried some years after my divorce, I married a lovely woman who was blessed with four children of her own. Two each boys and girls, they were a joy to be around. The eldest, a girl, has been an especially studious student, graduating among the top of her class, and going on to do the same in her college studies. A member of the National Honor Society in both high school and college, she is exactly what you want as a parent to have for a child. Our eldest son, a couple of years younger than his sister, was the same for the majority of his life. At least, up until the past eight months. It feels as if literally when he turned eighteen, he attained (at least in his eyes) the ability to tell us no; to not be required to follow the house rules that had served him so very well for the beginning of his life. He decided to stay out later and later, and to spend nights with his girlfriend. I hesitate to call her such here, but that at least is a kind way of putting it. She has grabbed a hold of his common sense, and turned him into a person that my wife and I fail to recognize. We tried to reason with him; we have talked, cried, yelled, grounded, everything we can think of. All to no avail. We even tried taking his vehicle away. He still stays away. He has now moved out, saying he cannot live by our rules; that they are not for him. He has stopped paying for his phone, for his auto insurance, and even coming to our home to say hello. All because we want him to attend college; to spend his nights at home; to not go partying every night of the week; to work and save some of his money against a situation which may arise that calls for him to have some money. Horrible, aren’t we? He at least does work at a job, although he is on his third job inside of a year; but he mooches off of friends and their families, or stays with his girlfriend and her single mother. His money goes to his activities, which include gambling at the local casinos (which are more than willing to take your money once you turned that magical age of eighteen), buying food and drink daily at fast food restaurants, buying cigarettes, and generally blowing though the money as fast as he can get it, with no regard for tomorrow. Adult decisions? No, not in the least. His Mother and I did our absolute best to raise him to be the best he can possibly be, to give school the dedication required to see his way into a future and a job that would serve him well, and to ready him for any family that he chose to have rather than struggle along at menial jobs that cannot pay the rent in today’s world. Instead of seeing that future, and becoming his future, he has thrown it all away on some young tart. I know he may eventually come around to see that what we have struggled to put upon his plate is the best choice he could have, but will it be too late? Will he already be a father, flipping burgers at the local burger joint? Or will he become another of the faceless crowd who require; no, demand our government’s assistance to survive; assistance which hard working persons like my wife and I and millions of others are called upon to pay for their choices even while we struggle daily to provide for our own household? We pray for the best, yet fear the worst.

To me, the bottom line is that while our children may be even more advanced in some areas than we were at the same physical age, in many ways these same children are more childish than we were. They may be more advanced in the “ways of the world”, but they are also more selfish, more into themselves in so many ways that actually, they are more children than adults. I fear for the future of our children, and this nation, if we do not take some kind of action in order to hold our children to a higher standard than they currently are held to. We need to hold off of handing over the reins of the nation to them. We need to change the age of maturity to twenty one years of age. At that point, they will be better prepared to defend our country; to make more informed choices about their own future; and to make those same choices for their fellow man. Eighteen is still a child in so very many ways.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      The stereotyping is a bit excessive. While I am from Canada (Alberta to be exact), I know many 18-year-olds that are mature enough to do what is described in the article. I'd even wager that the majority are this way. Not saying they don't make mistakes from time to time, but they don't make significantly more than most older people I know. The young adults you describe sound like the absolute most immature four people I know (out of probably ~100) and definitely don't represent the majority of young adults. Also, your open demonization of alcohol and marijuana is misplaced. If you look at the facts, neither substance causes issues in small amounts despite possible legal risks. Granted, your experience in the U.S. with 18-21 year olds may be different, but that would indicate a cultural or systemic issue rather than the blanket explanation that "they're all still children". My experience is coming from an area where full rights are granted at 18 without exception.

      tldr; your experience is representative of systemic and cultural issues, not age of majority

    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      7 years ago from Missouri

      UPDATE: Fall semester at college has begun, and our son is struggling. Math is a terror to him, and he has spoken about dropping the class; trying to go to a lower level math class; or dropping out altogether. This coming Monday is his birthday, and we have hopes of seeing him and speaking with him face to face. I fear he will drop out, and may never return to get the degree he so desperately needs to move up in the world. I know firsthand that this piece of paper is a key to unlock doors, and will continue to be one. I have been shut out of opportunities for lack of one. At one point, I literally was not allowed to get a promotion, but the person who was given the promotion was directed to me to learn how to do the job, because I had done it at another location. So, I am unworthy to do it, but I can train the person with a P.E. degree to do it. Logical, in today's world. Whether he realizes it or not, he needs it. I pray he will endure, and succeed.

    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      8 years ago from Missouri

      That is exactly how we are handling the situation. As he chose not to live under our roof, we have required him to place his truck into his name alone: we bought it for him (a beater 1991 Isuzu, but it runs well) about two years ago. The insurance went from under $100 a month to $150 a month. As it is now his to pay for, if he has an accident, it is his responsibility; it will not fall back on us. If he doesn't pay it, again it is on him, not us. He understands this. We continue to encourage him towards college, his mother most of all. She has assisted in setting up his freshman year, including scholoarships and classes. I think she has gone a bit too far, but I understand she wants to give him the best opportunity to succeed. If he doesn't, we've done all that we can do. We dearly love him, and will continue to poke and prod him back onto the correct path as we are able. But, we make it very plain that, as he has chosen this path, it ultimately falls on his shoulders. The closer the fall semester gets, the more he is speaking with us, and maybe this uneasiness he is feeling regarding college will ultimately land him back where we will be best able to assist him. Thank you for your comments, and for taking the time to respond. It is very much appreciated.

    • S Leretseh profile image

      S Leretseh 

      8 years ago

      "All because we want him to attend college; to spend his nights at home; to not go partying every night of the week; to work and save some of his money against a situation which may arise that calls for him to have some money. Horrible, aren’t we? "

      Just one person's advice: Parents today have to let them go... Always encourage them, whatever are their pursuits. Let young adults make their own choices. If you intervene, and it urns out to be a determent to him/her, you'll get the blame. Stay out of their lives when they reach those teens years --unless on those rare occasions which they ask your advice. Parable here: My mom has a friend who had quite an interesting adolescence (I got this story from my mom). Her friend grew up (since age 10) in a fatherless home. She likely started having sex about 12. She hated school! She dropped out at 15 and left home to live with her older boyfriend. She had three abortions before she was 22. She always did, apparently, manage to hold down a job. She was heavily into drugs Short of it is, tho, she turned out to be a good person. On her own volition, she got her GED. She then when on to not only get her college degree but a masters as well (in education). She got married and had a child...and dotes on him like he was a future KING i.e. she's a great mom--and I hope my wife can hopefully be as good as her. Moral: Don't give up on them, no matter how bleak it may appear to you. If you want to extend an olive branch, you tell him - via a letter or email - you hv faith in him...and hope he comes around and visits when he can find the time. People hv to be allowed to make their own choices in life.

      BTW, this was a very interesting & well written piece.

    • melatoday profile image


      8 years ago from Adelanto, CA

      I generally vote conservative, and as far as tobacco, I don't feel it should be available either. My mom is conservative too, but she's more the libertarian version of conservative along with my sister. My view is that a doped up society is a society vulnerable to attacks both physical and spiritual. As far as changed between 18 and 21, I learned a bit more about managing finances but I found myself clinging a lot to God a lot in that time frame as well. You didn't offend as long as you weren't generalizing. I'm not going to say I have it altogether, because I don't. What I will say is that part of my maturing process has been to be able to think and believe beyond just what my eyes can see this instant. For the most part, I fully acknowledge that I'm capable of being wrong. But it's my oddness, backwardness some might say, that I've come to be as lonely as I am. It's difficult for me to be a people person, to enjoy being around people, because I've always been an introvert because of my unpopularity.

    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      8 years ago from Missouri

      I applaud your efforts to better your life, and give you kudos for "picking yourself up by your bootstraps". Obviously, you are not amongst the group I am speaking of. However, I must respectfully state that a large number of America's youth are in fact quite selfish. As I stated in my hub, I acknowledge that not every one of the 18 year olds in our country are this way. But, outside of yourself, look at kids today at this age. How many fit within this category? Do you want 18 year olds to go to war? Do you feel that 18 years are mentally fit to possibly take another person's life? How do you feel about smoking? I feel that tobacco should not be available at all, let alone to a child. And as for voting, my example should shine as a reason not to allow it at this age. Easily swayed, they nonetheless can make a difference, but not always in a positive manner. I just feel that 21 would allow them to mature a little more. Did you notice any change around that age? In my experience, just that couple of years makes a huge difference in a person's outlook. I have worked with middle and high school age kids due to my employment with a public school district. You can see the general growth of the children, and the age in which they seem to become more involved with themselves than others starts around 14, and begins to recede at around 20, after a year or so in college, or at a regular job. The experiences seem to settle them down somewhat, with the realities of life giving them perspective beyond themselves. That is the main thrust of my hub. Allow them to be children as long as they need before thrusting the entire weight of the world on their still somewhat fragile shoulders. They will mature, we just need to wait a little bit longer before we expect them to think and act in the manner we do. I apologize if my thoughts offended you; that most assuredly was not my intent. I wish you naught but the best. Good luck.

    • melatoday profile image


      8 years ago from Adelanto, CA

      With respect, I think there is too much stereotyping going on in this article. I read about your experience with your son over the past 8 months, and if he is still living in your home, you should enforce the rule that he abide by your rules as long as he's under your roof. It's true that many 18 year-olds are extremely selfish and immature, but based on my personal experience, I can honestly say that assuming every 18 year old is that way is in fact a stereotype.

      I moved away from home two weeks after I turned 18. My situation is that I have had Spinal Muscular Atrophy III, my mom got me approved for SSI when I was 12 years old. My mother was on welfare raising my older sister and myself. My father had basically been out of the picture since I was conceived. Since my mom was my payee, she had control over the funds which would have been okay, but out of the $6-700 that was paid every month, she would use at least $30-60 of it to buy cigarettes. We got evicted when our electricity was shut off for 6 months and had to move in with my sister and brother-in-law.

      I love my mother and I know that she loves me, but she is one of the most contrary, contentious, and irrational people I know. She actually used to be better than she is now. From that time on, I frequently felt like my mother wanted to have nothing to do with me, and I attempted to run away 4 times. My last attempt ended a little before my 17th birthday. During my 17th year, I worked hard to make sure to graduate high school on time.

      For nearly 4 years, my mom had been telling me that she couldn't wait to toss me out on my ear when I hit 18. But the closer that day came, the more apprehensive she became about me moving out. She kept trying to deliberately pick fights with me when I was trying to stay out of her way. I graduated high school(the first one to do so on time in 3 generations of girls), and roughly a month later, my 18th birthday arrived. The SSI reverted into my name, and I was intending to stay with my sister, brother-in-law, and my mother along with their 3 kids.

      However the situation with my mom(she has undiagnosed bi-polar disorder), didn't improve and my brother-in-law(who has his own set of issues) kept insisting on provoking my mom. I got angry and told him that I was moving out and that my mom could decided whether she would come with me or not. She decided to stay with them to help raise my sister's kids, and I moved out and have been living on my own since. It wasn't easy, but it was even less easy being an optimist in a family full of pessimists. I eventually got my first associate's degree, attempted university life. When I was 23, I got married to my husband who was 24 and had mild cerebral palsy but wanted the same shot at freedom and independence that I had gotten. We've been married now for over 4 years, and I made a failed attempt to get off SSI a little over 2 years ago.

      If I had remained in the caustic environment with my family, I wouldn't have been able to go to college, nor would I be working on my second associates degree (I had an AA in one subject, now working towards an AS in another). I'm now 27, almost 28 years old. 2 weeks after I turn 28 will have been a decade since I moved out. And while I regret some choices I've made since then, moving out at 18 has NOT been one of them. My relationship with my brother-in-law has improved and my mother, about to turn 56 in October has still not gathered the initiative to work towards moving out of their home. I still visit with my mom, although the most I can handle is about 3 days to a week with her.

      My point is, not every 18 year old is like the ones you have had to deal with. And my humble hope is that you broaden your perspective to include exceptions to the average.


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