We Become Adults In Our Thirties and Turn Into Our Parents

When exactly do you become an adult? When do you stop thinking like a child, acting like a child, and set aside childish things.

According to my wife and kids, it's "Dear God, I hope that happens soon."

But according to the law, you're an adult when you're 18 years old. You're allowed to sign contracts and join the military. You can get married, buy a car, and sign a lease.

Of course, you're not allowed to drink until your 21, which seems to put the age of adulthood at 21, but you can't rent a car until you're 25. You also can't run for Congress until you're 25, your Senate run has to wait until you're 30, and you can't launch your Presidential campaign until you're 35.

Others believe that you're emotionally not an adult until you've lost your virginity, gotten married, or had kids, not necessarily in that order.

Or it doesn't happen until you bought your first car. Or have a mortgage. Or have a job that doesn't involve handing food to people in their cars.

British scientists recently concluded that we don't become fully formed adults until we hit our thirties. And just like ages vary for all those other adulthood milestones, scientists say "in your early thirties" is about as specific as they can get.

According to 2018 article in British medical journal, Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, our "childhood" lasts until we reach 18 because our brains are still going through developmental changes, even into our 20s.

That may explain why college kids make such idiotic decisions, especially after they've poured alcohol and drugs into their brains with a bunch of other idiotic college kids. Or so I've heard. I was a good student who never drank or did anything risky and stupid on weekends.

Okay, that's not true, but I guess I don't need to lie about it, since it's not like my kids actually read my columns anyway.

And if childhood lasts for 18 years, adolescence seems to last for another 15 or so. Recently, Professor Peter Jones of Cambridge University (official motto: "No, the British Cambridge") told reporters, "Who are you? How did you get in here?"

What he really said was, "What we're really saying is that to have a definition of when you move from childhood to adulthood looks increasingly absurd. It's a much more nuanced transition that takes place over three decades."

In other words, in terms of brain development, you're not fully capable of making adult-like decisions until you're in your 30s. To other neuroscientists, our brains at least stop developing in our mid-20s, which still explains the whole idiotic college kid thing.

Learning that it takes 30+ years to become an adult is bit of a downer, because adulthood is boring. Or at least, the other adults are boring. I still act like a 12-year-old, I'm just able to buy all the crap I wanted when I was 12.

Dr. Jones may have a point though. While early adolescence was rather terrible with its raging hormones and awkward sweating, later adolescence was rather fun once we were old enough to drink and run for Congress.

But once we hit our 30s, we start complaining about kids these days, caring about how many of them were on our lawns, and tucking tissues into the sleeves of our sweaters, which we wear whenever it gets colder than 76 degrees.

It gets worse. This is the age you start hearing 30-somethings say, "I think I'm turning into my mother/father." And they're not wrong.

According to a British study, more than half of the women surveyed found that they act more like their mothers around age 33, instead of continuing to rebel as they had done when they were younger and cooler and bought good booze and went to all the good parties.

Dr. Julian De Silva, a surgeon, interviewed 2,000 men and women as part of his study and found that many women start using the same sayings, having the same hobbies, and even watching the same television shows as their mother.

Men also start acting more like their fathers around 34, including adopting their political views, complaining about the heating bill, and yelling at their kids to shut off their damn bedroom lights. I think we also start turning into our grandfathers around age 45, when we wear socks and sandals and absent-mindedly pick at hairs growing out of our ears.

In many ways, scientists have seem to done younger adults a big favor, giving them permission to be fun a little while longer.

But everyone in their 30s just got hit with a cold bucket of water, telling them they're about to start complaining about how they can't understand today's music and they're cold, is it cold in here, where's my sweater?

Bottom line, we finally reach adulthood when we're somewhere in our thirties, but for many of us, we stopped having fun long before then. And some of us are going to keep having fun years after it's actually healthy for us. We all reach the same finish line, it's just that some of us are going to have a better time getting there.

Photo credit: SolarScott (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

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