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Discussion Starter #1
<p>"how do we know when individuals shift from childhood to adulthood?"</p>
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<p>I have to answer this question as part of a greater philosophy statement and it is killing me!  We have to site other theorists or philosophers as well as giving our own ideas.</p>
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<p>Any help?  This is something that I've never had a grasp on.</p>
 

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<p>I realize this is the opposite of helpful, but I heard someone say once that you've reached adulthood when you are taking a shower and get soap in your eyes and realize that you can't cry out, "Mom!  I got soap in my eyes!" and have it magically feel better.  <span><img alt="winky.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/winky.gif" style="width:15px;height:15px;"></span></p>
 

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<p><span><img alt="lol.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/lol.gif">  well, I think "opposite" might be too strong of a word</span> <span><img alt="upsidedown.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/upsidedown.gif"></span></p>
 

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<p>Well, you know.  Probably couldn't write that in a philosophy paper.  <span><img alt="lol.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/lol.gif" style="width:15px;height:31px;"></span></p>
 

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<p>Personally, I think it's a fundamentally flawed question, because going from childhood to adult is a long, drawn-out process that doesn't proceed in a linear fashion.</p>
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<p>However, the key, imo, is when people take responsibility for their own actions. Those who do so in a consistent fashion are adults. Those who don't, aren't. (Yes - that's grossly oversimplified) IME, there are plenty of children walking around in adult bodies and a few adults in children's bodies. There are other aspects, for sure...self-sufficiency (sort of - maybe more self-knowledge and the ability to contribute to a web of interdependence?), for one.</p>
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<p>But, I'm too tired to think - I know I had some other thoughts when I started typing, but I forgot I even had this post in progress, and there are probably 20 posts since I started it, and I totally lost my train of thought!</p>
 

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I agree w Storm, its not like a switch is flipped and suddenly they're an adult. Its a progression, in most cases a slow one. In fact i know many chronological "adults" (30+ yo) who could easily be considered children by their actions.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
<p>yes, I agree with both of you, that it is gradual and doesn't happen at a specific chronological age.  But what is it that makes a child different from an adult?  How does a person have to act before you will call them an adult?  Is there a certain point when chronological age supersedes everything.  Say 50 years old?  Surely no one would be considered a child at 50, even if they did act "childish."  I just can't articulate it....</p>
 

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<p>Maybe the best indicator of adulthood is being able to manage your own life without needing someone else to tell you what to do - being able to arrange food, housing, and transportation for yourself, and being able to take care of yourself and your home reasonably well.  If you told a 10-year-old he had to move out and get his own apartment and provide for himself, he almost certainly couldn't do it - and not just because there aren't full-time jobs available for 10-year-olds.  There would be all kinds of knowledge he didn't have, of course - about bank accounts and credit cards, cooking, hygiene . . . But beyond that, he just wouldn't have the necessary foresight, planning ability, self-control, logical thinking, etc. to handle it.  Even most 16-year-olds probably wouldn't be able to manage it without help.</p>
 

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<p>I think you should look at anthropologists' work.  Meredith Small has a book called <em>KIDS</em> which addresses this question, at least in part.  There is a biological and cultural interface involved - we are the only species which really has an "adolescence" per se.  Most go from infancy to childhood to adulthood without the long period between which we have as humans.  I know some of the earlier chapters of her book address this.</p>
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<p>Failing to situate your argument within an acknowledgment that cultural ideology will inform each culture's definition of 'adulthood' would make any argument/chronology suspect.  Some sociologists are arguing today that we have two different ages within our own culture for the onset of "adulthood."  That is - the poor, working-class 'kid' becomes an adult at or around 18.  But the well-off kid becomes an adult upon graduation from college (or from graduate school, even), with adolescence extending until people are nearly 30 at times (that they are relying on their parents for assistance, not fully independent, and not making the decisions which 'adults' make -- again, also a culturally situated argument). </p>
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<p>In many ways, a fifteen year old in a different culture might well be more 'adult' than a 20 year old in our culture, as a result of how we negotiate adolescence.  They are taught skills (and expected to exhibit them) at an earlier age; at the same time, they are not exposed to the same level of complexity of knowledge which we are exposing our children to here (iPhones, computers, electronic gadgets of all sorts).....</p>
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<p>An example of the cultural situatedness of this question would be a conversation my sister and I had with my father several years ago.  We were both in our mid-20's and home from grad school for Christmas.  Dad asked us to do the "little girls'" chores that day - we both asked why they couldn't do them, themselves.  He told us they needed a break and we hadn't been helping at home while we were at school, so the little girls needed a vacation.  We had a pretty in-depth conversation and it came down to the fact that, as far as he is concerned, you're not an adult until you marry.  So, my sister who'd married at 20 wasn't expected to do chores at home; but we single girls in our mid-20's were not yet adults. </p>
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<p>I think some would argue that marriage shows adulthood (it used to in our culture); others would argue financial independence (this is more difficult to argue in light of the recent economic situation, but does evince some of the discomfort which people feel when, as parents, they have to move in with their own parents for awhile); others might tie it directly to sexual reproduction age; while others might specifically tie it to completing an initiation rite (graduating from high school, 18th birthday, graduating from college).....</p>
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<p>Definitely, get thee some anthropological research!  :) </p>
 

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Discussion Starter #10
<p>that is very interesting and helpful.  I definitely agree about the cultural interface.</p>
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<p>One thing I'm still struggling with...</p>
<p>I agree somewhat with the ideas of supporting ones self, however, I still feel that there are biological aspects (brain development specifically) that are still affecting a person (child?) even if they are responsible in other ways.  you know?  And another problem that I have is the idea of independence being synonymous with responsible adult.  In some cultures families live together in all kinds of arrangements, certainly there are better indicators of adulthood then whether or not you live with your parents.  I mean, certifiable adults can live with their parents in certain situations.  And what about differently-abled people?  Do they never become adults if they can't live independently?</p>
 

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<p>Reading the OP made me remember a quote that is actually written in mosaic at a playground near here.  I'm paraphrasing, but it says something like, "Do we stop playing because we become adults, or do we become adults because we stop playing?"  I believe it's by George Bernard Shaw.</p>
 

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<p><br>
 </p>
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Toolip</strong> <a href="/community/forum/thread/1284326/philosophy-of-childhood#post_16103915"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a><br><br><p>One thing I'm still struggling with...</p>
<p>I agree somewhat with the ideas of supporting ones self, however, I still feel that there are biological aspects (brain development specifically) that are still affecting a person (child?) even if they are responsible in other ways.  you know?  And another problem that I have is the idea of independence being synonymous with responsible adult.  In some cultures families live together in all kinds of arrangements, certainly there are better indicators of adulthood then whether or not you live with your parents.  I mean, certifiable adults can live with their parents in certain situations.  And what about differently-abled people?  Do they never become adults if they can't live independently?<br>
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<p>Adulthood can mean the age when a person becomes physically mature (and I would include brain development in that.)  <a href="http://www.abanet.org/crimjust/juvjus/Adolescence.pdf" target="_blank">Here</a> is an article that talks about how adolescents don't have fully mature brains, and quotes someone as saying biological maturity happens at somewhere around 21 or 22.  Some people don't stop growing taller until around that age, also.</p>
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<p>Or adulthood can mean the age when a person is able to act as an adult.  I think in most people, that happens at roughly the same age as physical and brain maturity.  (It's probably hard to take responsibility for your own life in a really effective way if your brain isn't yet mature.)  But there are some people who will never be able to act as adults, even after their brain has matured as much as its going to, and probably the best way to describe them is to say that they have physically reached adulthood, but aren't able to act as adults. </p>
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<p>I don't think someone has to actually live independently from his parents to be considered an adult.  What's more important is whether he <em>could</em> live independently, if he had to.  (I'm thinking of being able to make all the decisions, not necessarily being able to physically care for oneself.  A quadriplegic who needs full time care, but who is capable of arranging the care himself, is no less of an adult than anyone else.)</p>
 

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<p>I would agree with others that acceptance of total self responsibility is the primary factor in becoming an adult.  But I also think that sense of mortality plays a major factor as well.  When I realized that I wasn't immortal...  I had some sense of death when I was a kid, of course, I'm not referring to knowledge or understanding of death.  But maybe more the weight of mortality?  Essentially, when you realize how very short and fleeting life is...</p>
 
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