An adult is a human being or living organism that is of relatively mature age, typically associated with sexual maturity and the attainment of reproductive age. In human context, the term has other subordinate meanings associated with social and legal concepts; for example, a legal adult is a legal concept for a person who has attained the age of majority and is therefore regarded as independent, self-sufficient, and responsible (contrast with "minor"). Adulthood can be defined in terms of physiology, psychological adult development, law, personal character, or social status.
These different aspects of adulthood are often inconsistent and contradictory. A person may be biologically an adult, and have adult behavior but still be treated as a child if they are under the legal age of majority. Conversely one may legally be an adult but possess none of the maturity and responsibility that may define adult character.
An event relating to the oncoming of adulthood is Coming of age, which encompasses passing a series of tests to demonstrate that a person is prepared for adulthood, or reaching a specified age, sometimes in conjunction with demonstrating preparation. Most modern societies determine legal adulthood based on reaching a legally specified age without requiring a demonstration of physical maturity or preparation for adulthood.
Some propose that moving into adulthood involves an emotional structuring of denial, suggesting this process becomes necessary to cope with one's own behavior, especially in uncomfortable situations, and also the behavior of others.
Famous quotes containing the word adult:
“Children who are pushed into adult experience do not become precociously mature. On the contrary, they cling to childhood longer, perhaps all their lives.”
—Peter Neubauer (20th century)
“Many more children observe attitudes, values and ways different from or in conflict with those of their families, social networks, and institutions. Yet todays young people are no more mature or capable of handling the increased conflicting and often stimulating information they receive than were young people of the past, who received the information and had more adult control of and advice about the information they did receive.”
—James P. Comer (20th century)
“They are not callow like the young of most birds, but more perfectly developed and precocious even than chickens. The remarkably adult yet innocent expression of their open and serene eyes is very memorable. All intelligence seems reflected in them. They suggest not merely the purity of infancy, but a wisdom clarified by experience. Such an eye was not born when the bird was, but is coeval with the sky it reflects. The woods do not yield another such a gem.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)