"Indicate whether you think each of the following must be achieved before a person can be considered an adult."Alex and I have spent a lot of time debating these responses. Alex thinks that the choice of subjective moral benchmarks for adulthood instead of concrete events is basically a good thing, whereas I think it's troubling. She points out that what really identifies these responses is their individualistic view of adulthood; that it's about individual attainment of certain goals rather than an understanding of one's relation to and need for other people. I think that it might be nice that people venerate adulthood so deeply that they identify it with such lofty moral accomplishments, but at the same time, I wonder if making such accomplishments the prerequisites for adulthood might put adulthood out of the reach of many people? And if irresponsible, selfish, philosophically inconsistent people are just people who haven't reached adulthood yet (rather than flawed adults), should we hold them less accountable for their actions, like we do children?
TOP FOUR ITEMS (% Indicating "Yes")
Accept responsibility for the consequences of your actions - 93%
Decide on personal beliefs and values independently of parents or other influences - 81%
Become less self-oriented, develop greater consideration for others - 81%
Financially independent from parents - 74%
BOTTOM FOUR ITEMS (% Indicating "Yes")
Become employed full-time - 26%
Married - 15%
Finished with education - 15%
Have at least one child - 14%
At the same time, only about 57 percent of people aged 18-25, and 70 percent of those aged 26-35 consider themselves adults. The rest say they both are and aren't yet adults.
I wonder if holding up these morally demanding benchmarks for adulthood is a way of actually shirking responsibility, or putting it off until a vague future point when one feels "ready" to accept it. Alex points out that, once you have children, you pretty much have to live up to the first three benchmarks or you'll be a bad parent, and my boss claims that, in fact, once people do have children (assuming they're not teenagers who are getting knocked up), they stop entertaining these dippy notions about "what it really means to be an adult" and just consider it a done deal.