At 18, you’re grown up – by law. But does that also agree with our reality of life? Psychologists say no!
As children we see above all our parents as the embodiment of being adults. They teach us what is right and what is wrong, are there for us without asking us to be there for them in the same way, and we know exactly when to eat or how long to sleep. Adults, that’s how it gets stuck in our heads, knows the rules, is independent and has the perspective. And most of them are between 30 and 40 years old – depending on how old our parents are, when we start to think like that.
Childlike imagination fits reality
According to Peter Jones, a neuroscientist and psychology professor at Cambridge University, such a childlike assessment of the truth would come as a chance, even relatively close. According to him, the transformation from child to adult is a process, a ” gradual transition that spans more than three decades, ” as the Cambridge University Department of Psychology quotes the professor on his website . Our childish conception is therefore obviously closer to a psychologically realistic adult age than for example our law – because according to that we are known from 18 years of age.
“Systems like the education, health or legal systems make things easy with their definitions,” Jones told BBC . But that people on a specific birthday in the adult mode switch – from a neuro and psychological point of view – complete nonsense. “There is not childhood and then being grown,” says Jones. One does not become an adult in one step, but rather on a path. And although it is longer for some, slightly shorter for the others – but completed at the very least after 18 or 21 years.
With 18 still in the middle of the maturity phase
According to “BBC”, different neurological studies show that our brain, more specifically our prefrontal cortex, when we turn 18, is still in the midst of crucial developmental processes. Therefore, at this age as well as in puberty, for example, we are relatively vulnerable to mental illness or self-esteem. At the earliest from the age of 25, for many, but only in their 30s, these processes are completed – and we become or feel more psychologically stable.
But does that mean that we have to rethink our statutory age limits and age-majority definitions or forget about them altogether? Hardly, after all, a psychological-neurological adult-being is not synonymous or the requirement to decide for a marriage or to deal responsibly with alcohol and cars. And if only people with a mature, stable personality were allowed to vote, not many would come together.
In order to organize and manage a society, it is probably okay to set certain fixed age limits, even though growing up is a lengthy multi-step process, Jones and other neurologists say. After all, we take some of these stages, for example, ability to care and consideration, earlier, others, such as self-confidence and purposefulness, later. Well, and some of the qualities that we as children have associated with being grown – invulnerability and absolute freedom or independence – we never achieve. But maybe it’s just this insight that somehow makes us grow up. Even if we do not feel the same way as in the imagination of our childhood.