Most of the societies put the age of maturity at 18. At the age of 18, a person can become independent from his family, vote, join the army, drink alcohol and so on. Culturally, at the age of 18 parents begin telling their kids – you are 18 – you should behave as an adult. I believe that choosing this age as the “maturity age” is a result of a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that the right number should be much lower, around 14.
The first question in this discussion is “what does it mean to be mature”? Well, based on our expectations from mature people, it means that a mature person has enough of a developed brain in order to make reasonable decisions for himself. But what does science tell us about the difference between the brain of an 18 years old and the brain of a 14 years old?
We know that the brain keeps developing until the age of 25. But does it mean that the full maturity is at 25? Should we raise the bar for drinking alcohol, voting and consent to sex to 25? Based on my experience with people who are over 18, some of them much more “mature” than others above 25I know, I think that this is absurd. The question that should be asked is, what happens from 14 to 18, that might justify claiming that “maturity” only happens at 18?
We know that culturally, teenagers are more prone to be risk-taking, this is seen across cultures and even across some mammals. But should being risk-taking be the condition for maturity? I believe that this should not be the case, for the following reasons.
There are many adults who are risk-takers, even compared to average teenagers. There is a strong link between openness to experience and extraversion to risk-taking (two of the big five personality traits). If being a risk-taker means being immature – should we measure the personality traits of people as a condition for voting and drinking? The point is, that even if we think that teenagers are not mature because of X, we should also prohibit everyone in society who has X from mature-related activities – if we think that this is a fair reason.
The fact is that we allow teenagers to do many things that require lots of responsibilities. We allow them to drive – a pretty dangerous activity. We also allow them to decide on having an abortion – a decision with huge effect on their lives, that we think they are mature enough to make, and so on.
Research supports the idea that the way we treat people, might influence their behaviors and the way they view themselves. When we tell teenagers that at the age of 14, they are too young to make important decisions for themselves, aren’t “allowed” many things and so on – we are also making them more immature than they might be.
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