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Research shows people don’t become adults until they hit their 30s

Research shows people don’t become adults until they hit their 30s

According to neuroscientists, the brain is still undergoing significant changes even at 18.

Research has shown that people don’t become adults until their 30s.

Well, that certainly takes the pressure off!

According to neuroscientists, even if you're 18, you're not a fully-fledged adult, as the brain is still undergoing significant changes.

Professor Peter Jones from Cambridge University told the BBC that transitioning from childhood to adulthood is much more 'nuanced’ than we think.


“What we're really saying is that to have a definition of when you move from childhood to adulthood looks increasingly absurd… It's a much more nuanced transition that takes place over three decades,” he told the outlet.

In their research, Dr Jones and his colleagues used an MRI to observe the brains of 297 volunteers aged 14 - 24.

They found that the brain is still forming after 18, meaning that behaviour is affected and mental health disorders are more likely to develop.

He suggested that deeming teenagers 'adults' was purely ‘convenient’ for societal reasons.

"I guess systems like the education system, the health system and the legal system make it convenient for themselves by having definitions,” he said.

However, he added that experienced criminal judges recognise the difference between a 19-year-old defendant and a repeat offender in their 30s.

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"I think the system is adapting to what's hiding in plain sight, that people don't like (the idea of) a caterpillar turning into a butterfly," he said.

"There isn't a childhood and then an adulthood. People are on a pathway, they're on a trajectory."

Similarly, in an interview with PBS, Dr Jay Giedd, chair of child psychiatry at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, said that the development of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for social interactions, regulating emotions, controlling impulsive behaviour, and assessing risk, doesn’t stop at age 18.

Instead, he says it takes almost 25 years.

The cerebellum also affects our cognitive maturity.

However, this is primarily impacted by our environment.

“This part [the cerebellum] of the brain has not finished growing well into the early 20s, even. The cerebellum used to be thought to be involved in the coordination of our muscles. So if your cerebellum is working well, you were graceful, a good dancer, a good athlete,” he said.

"But we now know it’s also involved in coordination of our cognitive processes, our thinking processes. Just like one can be physically clumsy, one can be kind of mentally clumsy.”

Featured Image Credit: PATRICK LANDMANN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images. Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

Topics: News, Science