Dad, when will I grow up? When will I become an adult?Image Components: adwriter, clintjcl, monkeysmumsie, deltamike, jaboney
That’s not an easy question to answer. Not only do different children mature at different rates but, paradoxically, as a nation we seem to have a seemingly arbitrary collection of ages about when we are considered mature enough to be treated as an adult. Some of these age thresholds, I’m sure, have been grandfathered in from a historic perspective and just never changed. Some, I’m sure, have been motivated by political pressure. Others appear like common sense.
“Dad, when will I grow up? When will I become an adult?”
Below is a (non-complete) list of various ages in which you are considered an adult, in various situations. Different contexts seem to suggest conflicting arguments about when we should be allowed to make our own decisions.
At what age would you consider your children old enough to think for themselves? At what age would you say your children have good enough judgement to be responsible enough for their own lives (and the lives of others)?
Should we adopt a single Boolean age classification to simplify things? Should there be a threshold age, below which, you are a child, above which, you are emancipated and an adult?
In WA state, you can get a driver’s license when you are 16 years old, and a learners permit at 15 years (Different states have different thresholds; some states allow leaners permits at age 14). When are you mature enough to drive a 2 ton vehicle at 70 mph?
You need to be 17 to get private pilot license, but 23 before they will let you have an ATP license (Airline Transport Pilot) to act as a commercial Captain (or First Officer).
Depending on the state you live in, you can be married by as early as 13 (If you are female, live in New Hampshire, and have your parents’ permission; 14 if you are male). Without parental permission, most states allow marriage by 18, with Mississippi being the outlier at 21.
18 is the threshold about which you can legally elect to shorten your life by being able to purchase cigarettes and tobacco products (in most states; some states the age is 19). Confusingly, different states have different laws. In some states it is simply against the law to sell smoking products (or give them) to minors. Other states it is illegal to consume them under age.
The Federal threshold for alcohol consumption is 21 years of age. EDIT: It's been pointed out to me that this is not true. There is no Federal law, it's up to individual states. However, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 passed and this punished any state that did not uphold this requirement with a reduction in Federal highway apportionment by 10%. The minimum drinking age is a state law. (The act also does not seek to criminalize alcohol consumption during religious occasions). The United States is one of only five developed countries in the world that has a nationwide drinking age of over 18, with the other four being South Korea (19), Canada (19), Iceland (20), and Japan (20).
Ironically, however, you can work in a pub or bar (I think) when you are younger. You can also work in other places when you are 14 (and drive a tractor and agricultural machinery).
The US constitution allows you to vote when you are 18.
COPPA law forbids you from having a Facebook account if you are under 13 (and any other site that collects personally identifiable information, or allows free-form communication, must deny you access).
You need to be 18 years old before you can legally own a gun.
US males are required to register with Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthdays (in case a draft is needed and we go to war). At 18, you are old enough to kill for your country in a war.
You can operate a jet ski at 14
Those under 25 years of age, however, will probably find it really hard to rent a car from one of the major rental agencies in the USA (this is not a law; just adding for perspective).
You need to be at least 35 years old to be the President of the USA (or the Vice President), but have no fear, you can cut your teeth whilst biding your time; You only need to be 30 years old to become a Senator, and 25 to be a Representative.
You have to be over 17 years of age to watch an adult themed movie rated NC-17
If you break the law there is a complex collection of regulations determining (by state) if you can be tried as an adult (for serious or violent crimes), or as a juvenile. Some states factor in age, some factor in if you’ve previously been convicted “Once an adult, always an adult”. But pretty much if you behave like a (bad) adult, you’ll be treated like one, even if you are as young as 13.
There is no minimum age to graduate college.
To play in professional football, the NFL requires at least three years post high school.
You can be an actor (or musician) at any age, but you can’t be a performer in a pornographic movie under 18 years of age.
You can get a credit card when you are 18.
You can get a loan to buy a house in most states at 18 (some it is 21).
If we can believe TV (and Doogie Houser), in some states there is no minimum age to become a Doctor or Dentist (but I believe there is an age threshold to be a vet!).
Depending on the state, you can take the Bar exam and become a lawyer. Reading the web there has been a little backwards and forwards on this with some child legal prodigies being denied the right to practice “to help ensure [they] possesses the requisite maturity to interact with clients and serve as effective advocates of their clients' interests.”
I guess that is why you need to be at least 30 years old to be a Judge and, self-referentially, rule about when you are able to rule about things!
You need to be 17 before you can give blood.
You can be left “Home Alone” at age 8 in Maryland! (14 in Illinois), legally. Other states it is based on guidance.
You’ll have to wait until 18 to get a tattoo in most states (In some states it is 16, and some 14 with parental permission), and most follow similarly for body-piercings (but not ear piercings).
You need to be 21 years old to become a foster parent, and 18 years old to adopt a child.
Finally, there is no minimum age at which you become liable to pay tax!
CAVEAT - I researched this article using the internet. Please don’t take the above statements as gospel. Laws are complex, as is their interpretation. Things can change, and I’ve also been known to make a mistake or two. The aim of this article is to be a light-hearted look at the spectrum of thresholds about which society considers people mature, not to provide legal advice!
Should there be an "Adult Test", like a driving test, to determine if you are mature enough to do things? If you can't pass, you are not allowed to do adult things?
Alternatively, how about we take a pointer from Peter Pan - the boy who never grew up!