OPINION: The myth of adulthood


One morning, you wake up to your voice being a little deeper and a red dot that has appeared on your chin – the signals to the start of puberty. You try to shake off the embarrassing voice cracks by laughing and you try to hide the pimples by caking on makeup, but sadly your efforts have failed.

Then, one day, the pimples have vanished and the voice cracks have evened out – yet you still find yourself trying to fix or hide problems that have been thrown your way.

Age does not define the start of adulthood, rather the decision to handle problems and situations as they are dealt to you proves you can play the role of an adult.

According to Neulaw.org, adulthood is said to start the second puberty rears its ugly head. There is a very different side to this argument that completely negates biology, however: the side of the legal system.

When a person turns 18 years old in the U.S., he or she is legally accounted for as an adult, however; some states even hold their citizens accountable for their actions at as young of an age as 10. This is the part that the two sides of this debate begin to clash severely.

In the 1993 case of Roper v. Simmons, a 17-year-old boy was charged with brutally murdering his neighbor and was sentenced to death. Although he was not legally referred to as an adult, he was being tried and treated as such. The case was argued over for nine years due to the overwhelming majority being against the execution of a minor.

Roper v. Simmons was, and continues to be, a prime example of the confusion regarding the distinction between childhood and adulthood. Although the inmate was found guilty of the crime, the lawyers argued that a 17-year-old’s brain is not fully developed by that age, and therefore individuals as young as Simmons are mentally incapable of appreciating the gravity and repercussions of actions such as his.

“The brain is not fully developed until a person is 24-25,” Dr. Sarah Finch, OB-GYN in Andover, Massachusetts, said.

She follows this, however, with saying that the rate at which a brain matures varies from person to person, and cannot be pinpointed to one specific age.

I have come to find that trying to decide when a person becomes an adult is nearly pointless, because something like that cannot be depicted by the legal system or science.

In a May 30, 2012 New York Times article, titled, “When Do You Become An Adult?” the writer opened up the comments section to children starting at the age of 13 to answer the discussed question, “When do you really become adults?”

One comment read, “When you need to be mature and act like you have some sense, then do that!” While this is slightly naive thinking, it nevertheless holds some truth.

In other words, it is in the times that call for a mature mind and smart thinking that a person is forced to play the role of adult. And such is life.

So when do you become an adult? I have found myself racking my brain trying to figure out the correct answer to this and here is what I have come up with – you don’t. While you are legally held responsible for your actions at the age of 18 and the arrival of voice cracks and uncontrollable acne are all sure signs of adulthood, it seems as if adulthood is not an age – it is a realization.

I believe that we play the roles of adults on occasions that call for it, but other than that, we are just grown children playing in a little bit bigger playground than before.

Kaitlyn Cotton is a sophomore in journalism.

Hi world! I'm Kaitlyn Cotton. I'm a junior studying English with hopes of going to law school one day. I spend my days writing, reading and working for the Collegian. I have had articles published in the Kansas City Star, the Collegian, and most importantly- my parent's refrigerator.