Most of us who are any older would question this perception. Maybe they are adult “wannabes” but they are certainly not adults. Perhaps a little more realistic, nearly 60 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds perceive themselves as an adult. Personally, working with college students, I believe this isn’t reality either.
Certainly, many are on the path to adulthood, but as of yet have not reached adulthood. Interesting, only about 68 percent of 26 to 35-year-olds feel they have obtained adulthood. If you haven’t reached adulthood by this time, will you ever? Maybe yes. Maybe no. I am confident that the 6 percent of 36- to 55-year-olds who still don’t feel like they are an adult will never reach adulthood.
I wish I knew what percentage of that 6 percent are men who are taken care of by women in such a fashion that growing up is never necessary. Anyway, I’m certain that it is this 6 percent that constitutes a major problem for our society.
What do you believe constitutes being a full-fledged adult? This, too, has been studied and three characteristics consistently emerge to the top. Take a moment and think about what you believe these characteristics are before reading any further. Let’s see how you did.
1. Adults accept responsibility for self. Becoming a mature, fully-functioning adult simply can’t happen without accepting responsibility for yourself. Your actions, your decisions, your thoughts, your feelings, whether good or bad are your own. Refusing to blame, justify or escape the consequences of your choices is a true mark of reaching adulthood.
2. Adults make independent decisions. Although an important part of the decision-making process is entertaining the thoughts and opinions of others, fully-functioning adults are capable of assimilating information, considering options and then making an informed independent decision. Rather than bend to the pressures of others, making decisions against their better judgement or accepting tasks they would rather not do, their clear sense of self allows them to say “yes” to what they want and “no” to what they do not. This allows them to live happier and ultimately more productive lives.
3. Adults become financially independent. There is simply no way to be a fully-functioning adult until you are financially independent. Being pushed out of the nest, forced — if need be — to make it on your own is essential to becoming an adult. As long as there are financial ties, there really is no way that you can truly be responsible for yourself or make independent decisions.
Of course, all three criteria for being an adult happen gradually, over the process of time. It’s like all of development — a few steps forward, a step back, a few more steps forward. This is why many in the age bracket of 18 to 25 would say they are kind of adult and kind of not. Feeling completely adult usually doesn’t happen — in American culture — before mid- to late-20s.
By then, most feel that they have reached a point where they can accept responsibility, make their own decisions and become financially independent.