When Are You Really An Adult? 30, Not 21, Survey Says

Kim LaCapria

30 is the new 21, a new survey reveals, after exploring the age at which young adults feel they've fully matured and are able to fully claim responsibility for their own lives.

The new maturity survey was undertaken in Melbourne, where the creeping later onset of maturity was reflected in the results. While 21 has been the age at which people in modern times have assumed full adulthood in many Western countries -- the age at which drinking is finally allowed for kids in the US, for instance -- the age of 30 has supplanted the old benchmark, pushing maturity up another nine years.

The new maturity survey was conducted by (presumably adult) researchers at Melbourne’s Brotherhood of St. Laurence charity, concerning babies born in two Melbourne suburbs in 1990. By the age of 21, only 38% felt like real adults -- a feeling many of us Gen X and Gen Yers can relate to.

A full 49% of those surveyed did not even know whether they felt truly grown-up or not, while 13% firmly refused to accept that they'd reached adulthood at 21.

Janet Taylor is a senior researcher at the organization, and she explained that not all those surveyed embraced adulthood with open arms by the age of 21. Taylor explained that longer periods of study in school as well as increased dependence on adult parents heightened feelings of immaturity at the age of 21:

"For some, the fact they were earning independent money and making their own decisions made them feel adult and for some they liked that they didn’t have to take adult responsibilities yet... A lot who are studying are also working part-time jobs, so there is a mixture of independence and dependence."
"I think the age marker no longer has some of the relevance it did... But on the other hand, turning 18 is very important for young people. It’s when you can drink or get a driver’s licence and some of the young people indicated turning 21 wasn’t as big as turning 18."