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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Adulthood should begin at 21

(Courtesy of Getty Images)
Nine black and red signs depict age restrictions. Senior Opinion Columnist Emily Beebe believes adulthood should officially start at age 21 instead of 18. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

Checking into a hotel, buying alcohol and renting a car: Even though people are considered adults when they turn 18, they don’t have the ability to do those things until they are 21. Not having these abilities at 18 defeats the purpose of being called an adult.

In most U.S. states, children are considered adults at the age of 18. However, the legal age of adulthood should be reevaluated and changed to 21. 

Although being 18 does grant important privileges such as voting and joining the military, these privileges should not be introduced until age 21.

While enrolling in the military is up to the individual, it is not fair for 18-year-olds right out of high school to go and fight for their lives.

Additionally, if teenagers are not encouraged to vote in high school, they tend to think voting is a waste of time, according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

Eighteen to 20-year-olds need more time for their brains to mature. By raising the legal age of adulthood to 21, individuals’ brains further develop, allowing them to make more critically thought out decisions.

Scott Sibley, associate professor and associate chair in NIU’s Division of Family and Consumer Sciences, said the prefrontal cortex of the brain is not fully developed at 18.

“Well we know with brain development, your prefrontal cortex, the front part of your brain which is responsible for making you understand the consequences of your actions and understanding a long term view of ‘if I make this decision, what’s the potential worst thing that could happen to me,’ that’s not fully developed until you’re about 25,” Sibley said. “So here we have all of these college students coming in being introduced to alcohol and sexual relationships and all sorts of things, and yet the decision making might not be there. Between the 18 and 21-year-old, I would think that the 21-year-old would have more life experiences and would be more potentially responsible.”

There’s the saying that people should act their age. However, some 18-year-olds can be very immature. 

Katherine Follmer, a junior early childhood education major, said 18-year-olds tend to feel entitled when they aren’t entitled.

“I do believe the age should be raised to 21 because they (18-year-olds) need more maturity and time to learn,” Follmer said. “Some of them just need to mature to be considered adults and not take advantage of what they have.”

There are plenty of adult-like responsibilities that 18-year-olds should learn before they are considered adults. Teenagers would have more time to learn about paying bills, doing taxes and acting independently of their parents if the official age of adulthood was 21.

Gabriella Calderon, a sophomore nursing major, said a benefit to raising the legal adulthood age could be teenagers not getting tried as adults.

“I think a benefit could be not trying 18-year-olds as adults in court,” Calderon said. “At some point yes they should be charged as adults, but I think the immature ones have not adjusted to the different rules once you become a legal adult. So it might have less young people in jail.”

The thought of 18-year-olds in prison when they don’t possess the maturity to know any better is heartbreaking. There are nearly 1,477 people imprisoned in the U.S. whose ages range from ages 18 to 21, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Although being an adult at 18 sounds like fun, there are more benefits to raising the legal age to 21.

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