Adulting: How Long does ‘Youth’ last?

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In my line of work (youth and young adult ministry), we often talk about the age range of youth and young adults. It varies in different places around the world.

With our church in the Philippines, the age for youth is between 12-24. In the United States, youth is from 12-18. When a person turn 18 years old, then he or she is considered a young adult and has reached the legal age. It means they are expected to be responsible for themselves and be liable for potential crimes or misdemeanor.

How long does a person stay as a ‘youth’?

It is fun to be a young person. It has its ‘stormy’ phase and you’re affected by moods and self-consciousness and many other issues. And then you grow up.

‘Adulting’ is one of those terms that recently caught social media’s attention. People post about getting an apartment, cooking for themselves, or just doing anything that is responsible and things that adults usually do.

I have recently enrolled in a Master’s degree in Youth Development. I am reading and learning a lot about adolescence, youth, emerging adulthood, and a lot of other things related to the youth and the process of growing up.

Markers of Adulthood

I read a section in our textbook, written by Jeffrey Arnett, about the markers of adulthood. Based on studies in several countries (USA, Argentina, Austria, Czech Republic, Romania, UK, Israel, and China), young people themselves identified the following markers of adulthood:

  • Accepting responsibility for oneself.
  • Making independent decisions.
  • Becoming financially independent.

All of these are marked by individualism. In a sense, you become an adult when you start taking care of yourself without the help of your parents.

This comes at different stages of life. Some youth are forced to grow up and act as adults even before they turn 18. While others seem to be languishing and refuse to grow up, even when they are nearing age 30.

Cultural variations of becoming an adult

Our textbook also identified some differences among cultures in the transition to adulthood.

For example, in Israel, serving in the military is a part of almost every young person. So once you complete your military service, you become an adult. That is certainly a rite of passage.

In Argentina, you’re considered an adult if you can support a family financially. Arnett also said that:

“Anthropologists have found that in virtually all traditional, non-western cultures, the transition to adulthood is clearly and explicitly marked by marriage…. in developed countries marriage ranks near the bottom in surveys of possible criteria for adult status.”

In countries with strong family ties such as India & China, you are considered an adult when you are able to support your parents financially.

For Filipino youth transitioning to adulthood, there’s a similarity in the cultural experience of youth in India and China. I know of many young professionals in the Philippines who are breadwinners for their parents and siblings.

Growing to be independent

For a lot of scholars from Western, developed countries, individualism and independence is highly valued. Consider this definition of adolescence from a UK-based Dr. Sarah Jayne Blakemore. In a lecture, she said that:

“[Adolescence is] “The period of life that starts with the biological, hormonal changes at puberty and ends at the age which the individual attains a stable, independent role in society.”

You can watch her whole lecture on the Teenage Brain on this video: https://youtu.be/PVIWalUD4mA

Youth and Adulthood in the Philippines

Some of the above transitions to adulthood is definitely true in the Philippines. But I do think that there are some variations in our culture, especially in relation to the concept of independence.

  • What do you think?
  • What are the markers of adulthood in the Philippines?
  • When can you say that you’re an adult and no longer a youth?

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this matter. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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