Once upon a time, turning 18 years old meant that you were an adult. On that special day you were allowed to drink, smoke, vote, join the military, even have sex with someone else who was at least 18. It made things pretty easy to remember--having that one age determine what you could and could not do legally. Nowadays, the definition of "adult" varies so widely, it's almost impossible to remember what age governs what activity.
I bring this up as Wisconsin considers moving 17-year olds out of the adult court system and back into the juvenile system. Advocates of the change claim that 17-year olds are "still developing mentally, and can't always make sound judgements". Yet many of these same people advocate for those under 18 to make plenty of "serious choices" without parental guidance.
Take for instance the sale of the "morning after pill" and other forms of contraceptives. There is no age limit on that anymore--meaning that as far as the Federal Government is concerned, 12-year old girls who want to be sexually active are adults. In states like New York and California, people under the age of 18 are not required to get parental permission before having an abortion. And in nearly all states, someone as young as 11 or 12 could petition the court to have parental notification or permission laws waived in order to terminate a pregnancy.
In most states, the age to drive is 16--but many, like Wisconsin, place limits on new drivers until they are 18. 16 is also the age where someone over 18 having sex with them would face a misdemeanor instead of a felony. 18 is still the magic number for voting, buying cigarettes and joining the military without having to get parental permission. It's also when people can start signing contracts, getting married and facing felony charges and prison time for serious criminal offenses. But we still don't trust you to drink--that doesn't come until your 21. And 21 isn't even good enough for some people to think that you are an adult. Try renting a car before the age of 25.
And then along came the Obama Administration, which decided that you shouldn't be considered "adult" enough to buy your own health insurance until you are 26 years old. In another ironic twist, those pushing for this measure were the same ones who took the age restrictions off the purchase of the contraceptives I mentioned before.
With so many different definitions of "being an adult"--no wonder there are so many twenty- and thirty-somethings still living with Mom and Dad.