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Love, Sex, & Men:

What Every Girl Should Know


Reliable Information for Happier, Healthier Lives

Love, Sex, & Men:

What Every Girl Should Know

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The Age of Adulthood

Many years ago, no one ever heard of adolescence.  When it came to human development, you were either a child, or an adult.  You became an adult at the onset of puberty.  This was commonly marked in females as the moment when the first menstrual cycle began; and usually occurred around age fifteen and a half.  More recently, that age dropped to the average age of twelve; and today, it is believed that puberty (not always marked by a menstrual cycle) begins as early as age seven or eight. So at what age does a human become an adult?

Although there a few states in which the legal age of an adult is 19 or 21, in most states in the United States, the legal age of adulthood is 18.  But is a human truly an adult once they reach the age of 18 or 21?  What is an adult?  Merriam-Webster defines the word adult as “fully developed and mature.” Similarly, other dictionaries define the word adult, as “having attained full size and strength; grown-up, mature.   A common misconception is that when a human ceases to gain height, or outwardly looks fully-grown; they have stopped growing; and are therefore adults.  What is commonly overlooked is that humans continue to develop inwardly.  The immune system, for example, continues to develop, and so does the brain.

In its Childhood Injury Report, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refers to children as being between the ages of 0-19.  In another report, the CDC refers to adolescents as being between the ages of 10-24.  Although the brain is said to reach near-adult size by the age of six, it does continue to develop. In fact, some neurologists have concluded that the brain continues to develop until humans are well into their twenties, with no significant growth after the age of 29.  The last part of the brain to completely develop is the prefrontal cortex, the area that handles logic and reasoning.  That being said, how old would you say the average person is when they reach adulthood?

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Age of Majority Law & Legal Definition.  Retrieved from:  http://definitions.uslegal.com/a/age-of-majority/

Dahl R.E. (2003).  Beyond Raging Hormones:  The Tinderbox in the Teenage Brain.  Cerebrum:   The Dana Forum on Brain Science

Immunization of Adolescents:  Recommendations And Reports. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. MMWR 1996, 45:(RR13).

Purity Congress Meets.  A Great Gathering in Moral Work in the City of Baltimore.  Aims and Objects of the Movement Determined to Prevent State Regulation of Vice and to Resuce Fallen Men and Fallen Women.  The New York Times.  Retrieved July 3, 2012 from http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9B01EEDC113AE533A25756C1A9669D94649ED7CF

Robinson, DA (1992).  Patterns of Mitigating Factors in Juvenile Death Penalty Cases, 3 Criminal Law Bulletin 28

Sturman, D, Moghaddam, B. (2012), Striatum processes reward differently in adolescents versus adults.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

By Donna R. Turner, MPH, CHES

Love, Sex, &  Men: What Every Girl Should Know