A Blurred Line Between Childhood and Adulthood


Amy Marquez at her quinceañera.

Gabrielle Daley, Feature Editor

In American society, one is considered a child and teenager throughout their first seventeen years of life. When a person is eighteen they are no longer a minor. However, in many cultures, one is considered an adult years before he or she legally becomes one and is given responsibilities that most children aren’t. The question is: when exactly is a person an adult?

In most religions there is no such thing as a teenager, there are only children and adults. Furthermore, at the age of thirteen, in Judaism, a person is an adult and ready to immerse fully in the Jewish community. To celebrate their coming of age, boys and girls have a bar mitzvah (boys) or a bat mitzvah (girls) on their thirteenth birthday. These parties are traditionally the first service that boys and girls get to lead by reading prayers from the Torah. “During the months before my bat mitzvah, I would study different prayers that I would need to know to lead the service (and that I would need to know in general). Once a week I would practice my Torah portion and different prayers with the cantor – an official who sings liturgical music and leads prayer in a synagogue,” Bella Whalen, a sophomore stated. After the thirteenth birthday expectations are to be true to the commandments stated in the Torah.

In the Islamic religion, at the first signs of puberty, a boy and girl are adults or baligh according to the Qur’an. However, boys younger than twelve and girls younger than nine can’t be accepted as adults even if they have had pubescent signs. Girls wear a hijab after their first menstrual bleeding in honor of modesty and womanhood if they choose to. “The meaning of the hijab is to show that you don’t need to expose skin or your hair to feel affection or love. It teaches you to love yourself the way you are. The purpose of it is also so a man doesn’t like you because of the way you look but instead because of your personality,” Elif Ozdemir, a sophomore said. She also went on to explain that once a Muslim becomes an adult he or she must respect and act mature around elders. As an adult, you have responsibilities like attending the mosque and teaching your children the Muslim culture of respect and love. It’s also important to help people if they’re financially fit.

Christianities don’t traditionally believe in becoming an adult so early in one’s teenage years. In the Bible, God pronounced judgment on all Israelites who were at the age of twenty because they wouldn’t believe in his existence. All those under the age of twenty were considered children. In Baptism, which is a branch of Christianity, boys and girls must submerge in holy water when they believe they are mature and ready to be a person of God. When Baptists are baptized, they must repent their sins which they feel guilty for committing to God. Around the age of eighteen when Baptists feel mature enough, most are baptized, essentially making them an adult member of the church. After a girl is baptized, she is considered a young woman and should be getting ready for marriage. “Being an adult is definitely being responsible for your actions and words. You definitely understand more and should know how to act and speak in different situations. I also feel like being an adult is setting a good example for others around you young and old,” a junior who attends Baptist church said.

Taking this into an ethical perspective, Latin American countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador celebrate a girl’s quinceñara, otherwise known as their fifteenth birthday as their transition into womanhood. “It’s an unforgettable experience, there isn’t anything I would change this experience for,” said Amy Marquez, a sophomore, when talking about her quiceñara.These parties are large occasions in which the girl usually undergoes a religious ceremony and then has a reception with her friends and family. It includes a dance with her father who exchanges her flats for heels, and she receives her last doll. Marquez recalled being with all of her family and friends, dressed up in a beautiful dress, and dancing throughout her party, as unforgettable. Historically, after a girl’s quiceñara, she would be accepted by the community as a woman, and eligible for marriage.

Despite many culture’s traditions, Webster Dictionary defines an adult as a person who is fully developed and mature. Now, looking at adulthood on a scientific level, the human body isn’t mature until the late teenage years. Of course, everyone’s genetics and nutrition are different, and we all physically mature at a different rate and age. Developmentally, a girl’s body is fully mature and filled out around the ages 14 to 17, and not uncommonly 19. A boy’s, on the other hand, body is fully mature in their early 20s and late teenage years.

On a mental scale, a woman’s brain is fully developed at 21, and a man’s isn’t fully developed until they’re 25. According to BBC, child psychologists are now starting to work with people until they are 25, not 18 anymore.The prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that helps inhibit impulses and understand behavior to reach a goal – lags behind after puberty according to The National Radio. Furthermore, emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions and handle personal relationships with empathy. Medical Daily stated that based on a recent British study, men aren’t emotionally mature until the age of 43, and women aren’t until 32.

With all of these different beliefs and factors, why are Americans legally adults at 18? Well, it’s strictly because of convenience, putting a number on it helps society function in an orderly manner since pinpointing the exact time someone becomes an adult is so tricky. When someone is eighteen he or she can vote, open a bank account in their own name, get at tattoo without parental consent, and get married. Teenagers can also move out legally, work full time, and drive at sixteen. At 21 in the United States and 11 other countries, Americans can legally purchase and consume drugs like alcohol and marijuana. However, 61% of countries drinking age is 18 and 19. In some parts of India people have to be 25 to 30 years old to drink.

Throughout life, people are all given responsibility, some at a younger age than others. First, they have to do chores around the house; then they are given schoolwork; maybe a job comes their way; they start to drive; they have to handle money; go to college; buy a house or apartment; possibly get married and have children. No matter one’s level of maturity, or even they are considered adults due to their culture, religious beliefs or legally, they will always face obstacles. Often times, these obstacles or defining moments in life are when one comes to the conclusion that he or she is not a child any longer. No matter their age, ethnicity, religion, or background, or even science, people all are independent human beings. Considering adulthood is completely up to you, not the law, define yourself.