The three things that mean you're a proper adult

If you've achieved these three things, you can say you're an adult 

Mollie Goodfellow
Friday 15 January 2016 16:21 GMT
To reach adulthood you need to achieve three things
To reach adulthood you need to achieve three things (REX Features)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


It’s hard to know when you become a ‘proper’ adult.

Is it when you finally fly the nest, move out of your parents’ house and get a place of your own? Or maybe it’s when you land your first job, have a child or get married.

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a research professor of Psychology at the Clark University in Massachusetts, specialises in emerging adulthood – that gap between late teens and mid-twenties, where people often feel a bit lost.

During his research into emerging adulthood, he spoke to subjects aged 18-29 to find out what they considered to be the ways they considered themselves adults.

In his book, Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties, Jensen Arnett collates his research and goes through what he calls the “Big 3” signs that you are an adult.

1. Taking responsibility for yourself

Speaking to Tech Insider, Jensen Arnett explains that this can mean a variety of things to different people, but the crux of the point is for people to take responsibility for their actions – no matter how difficult.

“It generally means accepting the consequences of your actions without expecting anyone else, particularly your parents, to protect you from those consequences.”

2. Making independent decisions

As well as taking responsibility for your actions, you need to be able to make independent decisions. Whether this is the decision to take a job or move house, being able to make these decisions independent of your parents or peers means you’re acting like an adult.

Jensen Arnett explains that this part is about finding out your identity: “The closer they get to 30, they're more likely to be able to answer these questions and figure out their place in life. It's not like these things are answered magically because they're older, but what they want to do, where they should live, finding a partner; because people are focused on these things, they find them.”

3. Financial independence

Perhaps one of the most obvious, yet difficult, of Jensen Arnett’s ‘adult criteria’ is being able to be financially independent.

In 2013 in the UK, 3.3million of 20 – 34 year olds were living with their parents. This figure has increased 25 per cent since 1996, when 2.7million of the same age group were living with their parents.

However, Jensen Arnett points out that America in particular places a lot of importance on being financially independent. He says: ”We Americans expect children to become independent, and emerging adults feel that pressure, and their parents put that pressure on them.“

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