Childhood Vs. Adulthood: When Are You Really an Adult in the US?

Posted May 6, 2021 by in Lifestyle

When you reach 18 years old, you might instantly inherit privileges that you didn’t have before this age. But, are you really an adult at this age?

According to science, a person’s brain doesn’t actually fully develop until they hit their 30s, so technically, you might not really be an adult until this age. 

However, the truth is that there is a difference between childhood vs adulthood in this country, and it’s important to know the difference.

When you cross the line from childhood to adulthood, you’ll have more freedoms, abilities, and privileges. The goal is to know when this change occurs.

When do you move from childhood into adulthood in the U.S.? Here is a guide to help you understand when this transition occurs:

Getting a Driver’s License is a Milestone in Aging

Learning how to drive is a milestone that many teens can’t wait for in their lives. When you learn how to drive and reach the right age, you can get a driving license that gives you the privilege to drive legally. 

For this to occur, a person must be at least 14 or 15 years old to take a driver’s education course, depending on the state. Most states require a person to be at least 16 years old to get a driver’s license. 

Every state has different laws relating to driving privileges, but many teens feel more adultlike when they begin to drive. Driving with a license is a sign of a person growing up. 

Meeting Age Requirements for Jobs is a Difference 

The transition from childhood into adulthood also starts when teens reach the legal age requirements for getting a job. Most employers won’t hire workers until they are 16 years old. 

Some jobs require workers that are older than this, though. For example, you might not be eligible to become a restaurant server until you are 18. You might not be eligible to work as a gas station attendant until this age, too. 

As you get older, you’ll have more opportunities to get jobs because you’ll meet the legal age requirements by employers and states. 

Many states have laws that require teens to get a work permit to hold a job. If this is the case, you’ll have to get a work permit to have any type of job, which is a sign that you’re not quite an adult. 

Another difference to understand is that children generally don’t have to work. Their parents provide for them. Adults typically do work, though, as they don’t have someone providing for them. 

Gaining Voting Rights is a Difference in Childhood vs. Adulthood

Another way to gauge a person’s status of childhood vs. adulthood is through voting rights. In this country, the legal age to vote is 18. If you’re under this age, you won’t be able to vote. 

This rule is in place because this country views 18 as the age of adulthood. While you can vote as an adult at this age, there are other things you can’t do at this age. Therefore, this age doesn’t completely make you an adult. 

Reaching the Age of Sexual Consent Also Matters

You can also factor in the age of consent for sexual purposes when determining when a child becomes an adult. The age of consent varies from state to state. 

Many states allow teens to legally engage in sexual activities with adults when they reach the age of 16. Some states set the age at 18, though. 

If you’re under the age of consent, people you engage with sexually could be at risk for legal problems if they have intercourse with you. 

States have rules relating to these things to protect children. Without these types of laws, there would be little recourse for children for situations involving sexual relations with older individuals. 

The bottom line is that even if your state allows sexual activity for 16-year-old children, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are adults yet. 

Reaching 18 Provides Other Opportunities 

It seems that when a person reaches 18 years old, they tend to have a lot more opportunities than they had before this age.

For example, most financial institutions will not open bank accounts, credit cards, or loans for people under 18. Once they turn 18, they have access to these financial services. 

When you’re under 18, you might not be able to open a new cellphone account or put a utility bill in your name. You probably won’t be able to purchase lottery tickets either. 

People under the age of 18 generally can’t book hotel rooms in their names, go skydiving without permission, or get tattoos. 

Being Old Enough to Buy Alcohol and Other Substances Is Another Milestone

One last thing to consider is the age you must be before you can purchase alcohol, cigarettes, vapes, and CBD products.

Buying alcohol is something most states don’t allow until a person is 21 years old. Some states allow people under this age to drink alcoholic drinks in bars when they turn 18, though. 

You can’t purchase cigarettes or vapes until you’re 21, too. Additionally, you might not be able to buy CBD products until you’re 21. 

If you’re interested in buying these types of products, you’ll need to know the legal age in your state. When you reach the legal age, you can purchase these things.

States develop these types of rules to protect children. Children under 18 or 21 might not make the best choices if they had access to buy these products.

Therefore, states create rules to protect people before they reach adulthood. By the time you’re 21, you’ll have access to just about everything listed here. 

Becoming an Adult is a Combination of Many Things

As you can see, there are some key differences between childhood vs adulthood. The truth is, too, that you might not feel like an adult even when you meet some of the standards that legally make you an adult. 

If you enjoyed this article, you might like others here on our blog. Check them out today!

*Photos by cottonbro