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Why is an 18th birthday so significant? #CapeTalk18

14 October 2015 8:40 AM

Turning 18 is a big deal all around the world. It means that you've entered into adulthood and welcome independence - or does it?

A lot can happen after your 18th birthday - it’s the one on which many cultures bestow young people with most of the rights they will enjoy for the rest of their lives.

Across the world, it is generally acknowledged as the age of shedding minority status, but why is 18 considered the legal age of adulthood?

Most 18-year-old's look forward to the freedom of being able to get married, drink, smoke, drive and conduct themselves without the need for parental consent.

With all the legal and cultural implications attached to it, little thought is ever given to why 18 was chosen over any other year as a marker of this 'new-found independence'.

Well, American history shows that the right to vote (also known as suffrage) has long been tied to adulthood and the age of majority.

The national voting age was lowered to 18 during the Vietnam War, when U.S youths were recognised as having the ability to make political decisions, after many were drafted into the armed forces.

Before the 20th century, the age of majority didn’t carry much significance, and Slate explains that the legal voting age has no scientific gravity beyond this.

The age of majority for most countries (including South Africa) is 18, while interestingly, neighbouring countries Namibia place it at 21 and Botswana at 19.

Despite assumptions that most 18-year-old's have reached maturity, many psychologist argue that adolescence extends into the mid 20s.


14 October 2015 8:40 AM