Age Limits vs. Maturity

By: Gittan Alicia | Contributing AOJ Journalist

Age limits are found virtually everywhere, but for what reason. Most people will argue that the age limits are there for safety reasons on account of maturity. However, age limits may not actually be the best way to judge an individual’s maturity. Walk into any modern-day high school and you will see a diverse range in the maturity of the students there. You’ll find some teens who are totally wild and out of control, and other teens who are perfectly behaved and focused on their schoolwork and future. Why should those focused and ambitious young students have to wait to be a certain age to achieve their goals? Why should they be held back due to a stereotypical age standard for maturity? Hasn’t society been preaching against stereotypes? Why should the age maturity stereotype be considered valid while every other stereotype is considered discriminatory?

According to Tim Elmer in his article The Marks of Maturity on Psychology today, “Students today are consuming information they aren’t completely ready to handle. The adult part of their brain is still forming and isn’t ready to apply all that our society throws at it.” The article also goes on to explain that teens aren’t prepared to make healthy decisions and teens are in between the stages of a child and an adult. It is with based off this that movie ratings are set. After reading this article it can be determined that age does have an impact on maturity because of the development of the brain, but that doesn’t explain why the certain ages are picked for when teens can do something or why some teens are more mature than some adults. According to this article, “The frontal lobes of the brain which are responsible for high level reasoning and decision making aren’t fully mature until the early 20s, according to Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, a neuroscientist at Harvard’s Brain Imaging Center.”. Based on this information, it would make more sense for all age limits to be set at about 20, for instance, driving, being considered an adult, and drinking, should be set at the age of about 20. But if this were to happen it would be unfair for all the teens far below that age who are more mature and who would be held back from achieving their ambitions due to a maturity standard based on age. How then could limits be set that don’t discriminate on age, but ensure proper maturity of an individual?

According to the same article there are certain qualities that define a mature individual, including, the person keeps long-term commitments, the person is unshaken by flattery or criticism, the person possesses humility, the persons decisions are based on set values not feelings, the person frequently expresses gratitude, the person prioritizes others before themselves, and the person seeks wisdom before acting. These are all qualities that are certainly not found in most adults or teens. These are also all qualities opposite of the qualities associated with being childish. For instance, the quality of an individual prioritizing others before themselves is literally just that the person isn’t selfish, which is often associated with children. However, there are many adults and teens in the world who are very selfish and care less about others than themselves. It can also be seen in the world around us that there are many adults that don’t fit these qualities, yet according to age limits, these adults are more mature than all teens. So why then create a system where determining factor for one’s maturity is based on age, which then determines whether or not an individual can do something? Many don’t question this system or advocate against it, but such a system can be very limiting on the abilities of aspiring young people to achieve their goals.

As a young person myself, I can say from personal experience that had my parents not been willing to help me with legal stuff, I would not have been able to do half the stuff I’ve done. This made me think about other young people who may not be as fortunate as I to have parents willing to help them. Because of the stereotypical age limits determining maturity idea, these young people are at a disadvantage. They aren’t able to legally do a lot of stuff on their own. For instance, parental assistance is required for teens to do stuff like take classes at a college, volunteer at many places, and start a business. If a teenager’s parents aren’t willing to assist them with this, they can’t do any of it. Instead, the teen is forced to delay their path to their dreams until they’re finally considered old enough to do this on their own, which isn’t fair. There are many adults themselves who never mature enough to be able to do these things, yet they can while younger people more mature than them aren’t allowed to do these things because they’re younger.

Driving is another argument in relation to maturity, but is commonly misunderstood. There are many older drivers on the road who drive rather poorly dashing between cars, speeding, not paying attention to anyone around them, and not caring. These drivers, while they are considered adults, are immature. Whereas, while many young drivers tend to get into accidents, many are trying their best to drive well and pay attention, but because they’re new drivers they’re still learning like everyone else once had to, they make mistakes. It doesn’t matter how old a teenager is when they drive, no matter how mature they are, they are going to mess up driving and get into an accident because they’re learning, the same would apply for an adult learning to drive. The accidents from young drivers aren’t going to change by changing the age, because new drivers are in the process of learning.As one could tell age limits are a commonly used and poor way to measure maturity. It doesn’t matter how old someone is to determine whether or not they’re mature, rather it depends on how developed the person is emotionally and personality wise. However, according to society and law age is what determines maturity. This is unfair to young people and delays them from achieving their goals. One could recommend changing this system and replacing it with something else, but what could it possibly be replaced with. A test could be given to determine an individual’s maturity, but it’d be hard to create an effective test that measures maturity and makes lying to appear more mature difficult. Therefore, while age limits are an unfair way to judge the maturity of people and while they hold back ambitious young people, the system of age limits the best system society has come up with to determine an individual’s ability to safely take part in certain activities.

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