Though the law is clear, society at odds on whether being 18 makes one an adult

In most states, the law declares that at 18 years of age, a child is no longer a minor and may act independently of their legal guardians or parents — smoke, get married, vote, register for the draft if male and legally sign documents for oneself. In reality, however, can one really be labeled as an adult at 18?

On average, most parents send their child off to college or out of the nest altogether at 18, expecting the newly winged and gently gliding bird to soar away and make a life for his or herself as the adult one is expected to be, all of a sudden. Yet so many “adults” are quickly fluttering back to the nest, often unprepared for the real world. Sure, you might have a minimum-wage or, if lucky, a decent-paying job, but that rarely proves to be enough to keep up with bills, food, gas and tuition.

For most students, the hours we’re working, coupled with minimum wage jobs, are not enough to sustain the high demands of a real-world capitalist economy that greedily sucks our hard-earned money from our back pockets.

For some parents, being 18 does not automatically mean that you are mentally an adult capable of making mature decisions, having self-control or even taking responsibility for your actions. This is plainly evident in the cases of those 18-year-olds still living at home or living away from home, but mainly reliant on financial support from their parents. This is not the lifestyle of the supposedly emancipated, self-sustaining adult.

In the New York Times’ Room for Debate piece “When Do Kids Become Adults?” seven experts argued that “significant changes in brain anatomy and activity are still taking place during young adulthood, especially in prefrontal regions that are important to planning ahead, anticipating the future consequences of one’s decisions, controlling impulses and comparing risk and reward.”

The question being raised here is whether an 18-year-old should be classified as an adult or merely an individual who is now capable of voting, smoking and signing legal documents.

Honestly, there is not much difference between a 16-year-old with a part-time job and an 18-year-old with a job.

According to Gregory D. Lee, retired DEA Supervisory Special Agent and contributing editor for FamilySecurityMatters.org, “if 18-year-olds cannot be trusted with alcohol, then they shouldn’t be trusted with credit, marriage or voting, nor should they be (asked) to give their lives while serving in the military.”

But there are parties on both sides of the issue.

Many members of the Assembly of Public Safety Commission acknowledge that “an 18-year-old is an adult with the same right to make stupid choices as a 41-year-old does.”

Since everyone’s definition of an adult is different, there probably isn’t a clear-cut, correct answer in this debate. However, what remains is the fact that, in the United States, the typical age of accepted adulthood is 18. Until officially determined otherwise, an 18-year-old is an adult that cannot be “touched,” both legally or financially, by their parents or legal guardians, even if not mentally matured for such capacities on their own.

Opinion columnist Juanita Deaver is an anthropology freshman and may be reached at [email protected]

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