Being an adult may be one of the most desired intangibles of
some college students’ lives.
However, according to a recent study sponsored by the National
Opinion Research Center and the University of Chicago, the age at
which a person is considered to be an adult is going up.
While the marker for adulthood traditionally stood at 18 or 21
years of age, most Americans now believe people are not really
adults until age 26.
The study found that many people perceive the process of
becoming and adult to include being employed full time, supporting
a family, being financially independent, living independently of
one’s parents, being married and having a child.
While some CSU students agree that these are important stages in
reaching adulthood, others said they feel they are adults, even
though they have not reached some of these milestones in their own
Bridget Idler, a 22-year-old senior majoring in French, said she
feels like an adult due to the responsibilities she has in living
on her own and in balancing her life between school, work and
One experience that helped Idler define herself as an adult was
studying abroad in France.
“Going by myself and learning to travel by myself is a major
part of my feeling like an adult,” she said.
Brett Rooks, a 21-year-old senior forestry major, also said he
considers himself an adult, because he pays his own bills and takes
responsibility for his choices.
“Being able to provide for yourself and giving yourself goals
and things to do,” Rooks said. “If I don’t sit down and study, I
won’t reach my target GPA, and when I was younger, I wouldn’t do it
Both Idler and Rooks admit there are times when they do not feel
grown up yet, especially when they think about graduation and
trying to find a job while the economy is bad.
Kevin Lyness, an assistant professor in the Human Development
and Family Studies Department, said that he sees a lot of confusion
in students regarding when and how they feel like they are becoming
“There’s not a lot of consensus because I think (students) are
in a period of transition,” Lyness said.
While Lyness agrees that the events listed in the University of
Chicago study are important markers in growing up, he said marriage
and children are becoming less significant indicators of adulthood
than they once were and said it is difficult to pinpoint just one
or two events to define adulthood.
Lyness also said the age of puberty is going down while the age
of adulthood is going up, thereby turning adolescence into a period
of about 10 years, which makes the transition even more difficult,
“Our legal system has different definitions of an adult, as
well,” Lyness said.
A person can drive at 16, vote, go to war and be tried as an
adult at 18, purchase alcohol at 21 and rent a car at 25 without
purchasing the optional insurance package.
Wendy Wermerskirchen, 20, understands that confusion.
“I consider myself an adult responsibility-wise, but not
age-wise,” said Wermerskirchen, a sophomore microbiology major. “I
have responsibilities that are that of an adult, but because of my
age I still have a lot of restrictions. I can’t rent a car, I can’t
Shannon Palombi, 20, a junior in criminal justice, said she
wants to be considered an adult, though at times she feels
“There are some times when I need my mommy and want to be 2
again,” she said.