The question about what age a person should be considered an adult has remained a difficult and problematic issue in the Western world which has yielded inconsistent answers when taking into consideration the huge variation between freedoms and prohibitions that are allowed at different ages. Indeed, the age that a person should be considered an adult varies considerably on the amount of freedoms and responsibilities they possess. This ranges from legal liability in criminal law (the age in which a person can be charged as an adult), the purchase of controlled substances such as alcohol, tobacco and firearms, when a person can find employment or join the armed forces and the relative social freedom an adult enjoys through bounds such as marriage, relationship and sex.
While the question of age and adulthood is covered in many different situations there is a certain lack of consistency when regarding the various ages in which a person is allowed or permitted to do certain things. For example, under federal law in the United States the legal age for joining the army is 17 with parental consent. In contrast the legal age limit for purchasing alcohol is 21 or over. This is just one of the many inconsistencies that are related to age and adulthood. On the one hand society deems that at age 17 a person can fight and die for their country but would have to wait another four years before.
After careful consideration I believe the age a individual should be considered an adult should be set at 18 years. The reasons behind this are based on several reasons which range from biology to the current legally set limitations on what an individual can do at certain ages. First, from a biological perspective a person reaches ‘adulthood’ after going through puberty which in both boys and girls is typically completed by the age of 18. I believe this is the most accurate benchmark to begin the discussion as it provides an objective age which is not solely based on social considerations. As well as this at 18 years of age a person has fulfilled the general requirements of education in the United States and is free to pursue a career of their choice without limitations on the number of hours they can work. I believe the ability to find work and financial freedom should be the clearest indicator of what age a person should be considered an adult. At the same time the legal age for the prohibition of alcohol, tobacco and other controlled substances should be lowered to 18 years of age to provide a consistent system.
While I believe the argument for setting the age limit a person could be considered an adult to 18 is the most logical and practical answer to the question, there could be many arguments against this position. First, from one perspective could be that maturity and adulthood is by no means dependant on age, but rather experience and character of the individual person. This position has a lot of merit as it focuses on adulthood being defined by the person rather than the age, however it fails to provide an specific answer to how limits should be determined. Another argument in lowering all age prohibited activities to 18 or above would be the potential social and health consequences of suddenly allowing younger individuals to purchase controlled substances that negatively effect health and social order such as alcohol. While the consequence of such a change may have a detrimental effect when first implemented, this result is primarily down to the prevailing social age currently enforced, and such problems would dissipate after such measures were implemented.