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OT - child or adult

Aniki's picture

Another post got me thinking... Do you consider 17 years old to be a child? A 17yo can drive a car, hunt, and hold down a job. A 17yo can join the military and fight for his/her country. A 17yo can be tried as an adult in a court of law. 

But do you consider a 17yo to be a CHILD?? Childish, sure. But a child?? Thoughts.


Step lightly's picture

A 17 yr old is a teen. Neither child nor adult. 

Calling them a child seems insulting to their independence, intelligence, and capabilities. At 17 I was living in my own apartment, working, paying bills. I was certainly still very childish about a lot of things as my brain was not fully developed, but to say I was a child would not be appropriate. Teens have more responsibility than children and therefore deserve to be held to a higher expectation than a child. 

That being said. Teenagers aren’t adults. They can’t fully understand big complex issues. Part of this is again because their brains aren’t done turning into adult brains, but also because it’s just impossible to have enough life experience at that age to really be an adult. They need room to figure things out by trial an error, make some mistakes, really learn who they are for themselves and what they believe in. 

16 is maybe about the age I would start considering someone a teenager or young adult. Up until 25 or so. 

Petronella's picture

I would call 14-19 a teen or young adult. Not a child but not an adult either. 

My DH tries to refer to his 17yo and 20yo as "children," and they refer to themselves that way, but I correct them every time.

tog redux's picture

They are still minors in most areas - can they join the military without parental consent? And kids of any age can be tried as adults, but usually aren't (except in two states - NY and NC, which still have the age of criminal responsibility below 18).  They can't do a lot of things yet without parental consent.

I think they are in between child and adult. Adolescent. 

mollygreen22's picture

I dont consider a 17 year old a child at all.  Definetely teen. I too was independent living out of my childhood home,  and now i dont know how i got by.  I was defientely not mautre enough to make adult responsible decisions.  I dont consider them a child but defenetely not an adult. 

Cover1W's picture

No.  I don't even call SD13.5 a child or kid any longer. She still refers to herself as a kid, and mommy still gets her ready for bed (I recently found this out...!!!!).  But going through puberty and developing a brain outside of 'kid brain' = not a kid.  A young teen, or older teen, as in 17, yes.

Dontfeedthetrolls's picture

Depends on the "child". I was adult at 17 becuase I was doing adult things such as having graduated highschool and being self-employed. My sister was still a child past 18 becuase she wasn't independant or able to function as an adult. Of course they are still a minor by the law but again that highschool garduation comes in.

CLove's picture

here its 18, when you really "belong to yourself".

Petronella's picture

I definitely think that 16-21yo's can be more immature in some ways than previous generations were at those ages. I knew many 16 and 17yo's who lived on their own, back when I was growing up. I can't imagine most teens doing that nowadays. People used to get married and have children in their late teens and early 20s and do all right, but I don't think most 20s nowadays are ready for marriage. 

My oldest SK, now 22, did move out when she was 18 and it was a HARD learning curve for her and her boyfriend. But she is quite a mature and responsible young lady today. She was a typical spoiled suburban monster at 18, LOL. 

Step lightly's picture

I don’t even understand how that age group these days don’t even show much interest in getting their driver’s licenses...if they can just order a car on their phones and have someone else do it, they don’t want the responsibility.

that baffles me. I couldn’t wait for that independence.

lieutenant_dad's picture

To play devil's advocate:

Car prices and insurance for young drivers is expensive. The amount of stipulations around getting a license are pretty extensive and take at least a year to gain that independence. Plus, schools have REALLY driven home the dangers of driving. I can totally understand why someone who has ready access to a vehicle without the financial or moral responsibility would take that option.

We're teaching OSS to drive at the moment, and he is scared sh*tless. BM's XH had been in several accidents with the kids in the car, and BM has struggled to maintain a working vehicle. He has rarely ever ridden in the front seat, so he hasn't watched a lot of driving from the front. The go-kart places around here have all closed and been replaced by retail shops or warehouses, so he's never practiced. Our yard is small and BM has almost always lived in an apartment, so using a riding mower hasn't been an option.

Basically, his opportunities to drive have been far more minimized than they ever were for me, and those were minimized from my parents. Culture on a multitude of levels, from more restrictive driving laws to lack of safe places to practice (remember being able to practice in the school parking lot? They're all gated now) to high prices on gas/insurance/maintenance without a comparitive increase in pay for teen-level jobs to account for inflation, has made it far less appealing to want to learn to drive. Plus, when rent on your 1 bedroom apartment is $800+ per month, you have to make a sacrifice somewhere. A car becomes a luxury.

Petronella's picture

All of this!

Frankly, I think teens SHOULD be scared shitless of driving. It's a very serious responsibility and one that I think previous generations took too lightly. I think many if not most 16yo's should NOT be driving. Their brains lack the judgement and the maturity.

Very good points about the reduced opportunities to practice driving. There definitely are fewer parking lots or other empty spaces. And kids riding in the backseat until they're 15 or whatever the latest superprotective laws are. 

Step lightly's picture

I see your points there. So much of the culture now is cautious these days. And things are certainly expensive....I’m fortunate enough to live in a place where a 1 bedroom apartment is far more affordable than the national average. 

I’m an “old” millennial so I’m not so far removed from the pains of high cost of living, and the start of these fearful trends in society. Old enough to have grown up in the back of a pickup truck, be set loose during the day to come back for the dinner bell. Young enough to see how these kids are getting the shaft. 

My points of reference are more teens who live in car-dependent areas not quite wanting to put forth the effort because someone else (uber/mom) can just do it for them. It’s a willingness to be dependent on others that I don’t understand.

edit: not just failure to launch, outright refusal to launch.

Petronella's picture

"My points of reference are more teens who live in car-dependent areas not quite wanting to put forth the effort because someone else (uber/mom) can just do it for them."

I find that to be a truly bizarre phenomenon! But a number of Steptalkers have seen it happen! 

My YSD refuses to take the bus and relies on rides from Mommy, Stepdad and Big Sis. She does have her learners and does practice her driving though. She doesn't have money for cabs/Uber as she also refuses to work and as far as I know no one gives her money for that, so thank goodness for small mercies I guess.

tog redux's picture

Eh, I think they are mostly just coddled babies who are afraid of everything because we adults have made them afraid of everything.

SS is 19.5 and still no license.

Petronella's picture

Would your SS even be allowed to get an American drivers license, with the kind of visa he's on?

tog redux's picture

Yes, that wouldn't be an issue. He allegedly has a driver's permit (for learners). He's just afraid of his own shadow, but he won't admit it.

We've scared the crap out of these poor kids with all of our overprotecting, and stranger danger, and helmets to ride a tricyle and never letting them do a damn thing by themselves.  I'm not surprised they are all anxious.

Step lightly's picture

I know!!!  My ss won’t even walk three steps from the back door to the garbage cans to take the trash out without stopping to put on shoes first.... because he might hurt his feet. 

The first time I met SD though... there was a mural on the wall at the restaurant that freaked her out so she kept staring it down. As we left, she looked back through to keep an eye on the monster... she wanted to confront her fear... I knew I liked her from day one. 

Maybe there’s hope?

Cover1W's picture

Yeah, I think it depends on where you live. If you are in an area that has good public transport then a need to drive is far less and can actually be a hindrance to getting around. 

Or, if BM/DH cater to the kids and do no self-reliance, then that's another matter.

I started driving as soon as I could reach the pedals. My dad drilled me over and over about how to be a good driver, we did driving on our property and at a closed location near our home.  I was a fairly experienced driver already - I wasn't scared, but I was knowledgable and aware.

Being SCARED of driving is one of the worst things you can do - it limits reaction time, awareness, ability to see beyond the hood and makes you react TOO fast sometimes.  I hate being a passenger in a car with timid drivers.

Before OSD PASed out, I would make her start the car every so often, and sit in the front passender seat as often as possible. No devices allowed EVER in the front seat for teens.  She actually liked this. If she hadn't PASed out, I would have started her driving at 15 in a safe place - she had the ability to do it.  P.S. she would not be driving my car.

Now, YSD is petrified of being a passenger in the front seat, petrified of air bags, petrified of all of what a car means, because it's "dangerous."  OMG. She broke down crying when I asked her to please sit in the front seat, acted like a 6 y.o.  So I said, "OK, then, fine. I will never, ever ask you again. Your parents can deal with it moving forward." Magically her tears stopped.  FFS done.

Petronella's picture

I think the drivers license thing depends on the culture where they live. In rural areas or more car-centred suburbs like much of North America, a car is necessary. But for kids growing up in larger cities or other countries, driving is less of a rite of passage. Where I live, the cost of gas and insurance can be prohibitive especially for new drivers or anyone who doesn't work full-time. My daughter, 23, never needed to learn to drive (although she's starting to learn now from her friends) and she graduated university, lives independently and has travelled the world on her own. My SD20 got her DL and a car at 16 and now works in the service industry, basically in order to maintain her car. She has no savings, was unwilling to work less or give up her car in order to afford college, and still lives at home. Who's more adult between the two of them?

agitated's picture


1. My SD16stb17 does not have a drivers permit; she't toooo scaaaarrrrrred to drive and daddeeeee won't force her.

2. She doesn't have a job even though the house rule is to get one within 6 months of turning 16; but then there's daddeeee again saying she is trying. She is NOT trying by applying to 4 places!

3. She doesn't know how to use the microwave or toaster oven wtihout being directed, every single time by one of us. For they record, my bios (14 years old) can do this.

Petronella's picture

Agreed, none of that is normal for a teenager, even for Generation Tide Pod of today. That's just bad parenting.

GrabitAndGo's picture

Can't use a microwave or toaster oven without being directed?  Seriously?  Either you are BS-ing us, or your SD is going out of her way to play helpless.  

ProbablyAlreadyInsane's picture

Yes and no. I agree with the above... They're teens. No they shouldn't be given ruleless range of the world. But they also shouldn't be completley sheltered. This is the stage they should have a bit more responsibility and freedom, but still have enough structure and discipline so they don't do anything too stupid that ruins their future, and they get enough guidance for when they're really on their own.

Middle ground. Not a child. Not an adult.

STaround's picture

Cannot get most types of financial aid for college on their own.  Parents income will determine. But if they are going to college, they should be getting grades on their own.

Can drive, but insurance is so expensive, many have given up getting a license at 18.

Can legally rent out an apartment, but where I live landlord will likely want a parent guarantee.

Cbarton12's picture

I mean they are more children than adults. 

But as others as have said, they are aptly named teens. They are definitely more independent or should be but they still lack a lot of maturity and knowledge. 

ESMOD's picture

At 17 I was enrolled at college and living away from home making all sorts of "adult" decisions and taking care of my own needs.  Feeding myself, keeping my home clean.. doing laundry.. getting myself to class.. getting myself to work etc..  I would not have considered myself a child.. though technically I was still a dependent of my parents.

Legally, there were still a few things I wasn't able to do until 18.. but mentally?  I don't believe my thought process was dramatically different at 16, 17, or 18 years old. 

My parents had taught me to be a critical thinker and weigh the consequences of my actions.... not saying I always made the right decisions.. but then again.. I don't do that at 50+

I don't think that a 17 year old is a child with the same connotation that a 7 year old is a child.  Physically, they are mostly matured adults... Mentally they have the capability to think for themselves and there is no magic wand that makes a 18 yo more responsible than a 17.9 year old.

Depending upon the individual of course.. but I think that "young adult" could be a label at 17 years old onward.. Prior to that.. teenager.. which is a mix of kid and adult qualities. 


ESMOD's picture

BTW, I also do agree with the statutory rape laws that make allowances for situations like an 18 yo and 17 yo dating... where the age difference is relatively small and would be considered a normal age gap. So not a 19 yo and a 12 year old match.. but 17 and 19? that's not too different.. It's not really abnormal for people with 1-4 year age gaps when they are early 20's and younger.  It's quite different when it's the 40 year old teacher and the 16 year old student.. vs the 18 year old senior girl and her sophmore boyfriend who is almost 17 years old (1.1 years apart) etc..

The intent of our sexual predator laws wasn't necessarily to ensnare teens dating in what might be considered normal age gap situations (I am not saying it's ok for them to rape.. but that if it's consensual.. and it's just age difference that is fairly normal for kids that might be dating)



bananaseedo's picture

Teenagers- until age 20-then young adult- then maybe 25 adult.  My youngest doesn't want to drive, he is scared, he also doesn't get out much and is a homebody-and has some friends that drive so he doens't have much of a need to drive.  He's looking for a summer job and until he can afford all that comes with a car he'll be driven.

The cost of living right now is outrageously higher then it ever was.  I had a very very low paying job at the time, so did my ex and between us and my brother we rented a two bedroom appt.  Our insurance wasn't too bad- cars weren't expensive.  Groceries, utilities, all of it.  We lived pretty good and I made 1/4 of what I make now and I don't live half as good.

Insurance where I live is like $300 a month for an old ass car for a 19 yr old!   W/no bad record.  That's more then a car payment would be if there was one.  Right there it's around $500 if it's a low car payment, not counting maintenance, gas, oil.  When they pay $8 hr starter jobs? Come wonder they are forced to stay with parents until much older now.  Unless they lived in a cardboard box.  Then lets talk how student debt is drowning everyone!  I refuse to let them take large loans and I doubt either of them will do a 4 yr degree but probably focus more on a trade and have smaller loans. 

WarMachine13's picture

I was emancipated at 16. Most of my friends were on their own by 18-19. IMO, it's all about how you're raised. 17 is young adult.

Aniki's picture

WarMachine, I know someone who was emancipated at 15. I cannot imagine how difficult it was for you and him, but both of you have come out on top!

Monkeysee's picture

Adolescent/young adult. If a 17 yo is considered a child (unless there is a developmental issue), there’s something wrong with how they’re being raised. 

Kes's picture

Personally, I left home at 17, and would have been ticked off if anyone had called me a child. In the UK, legal adulthood is 18 for voting and most other things, you can still have sex at 16 and marry with your parent's permission.  

At 17, I certainly would consider that the parents' job is pretty much finished, although if a 17 yr old is living in the parents' home then they should be expected to observe any house rules that apply to everyone, such as quiet after 10pm etc. and phone home if you are going to be very late.  

I treated my own daughters as sensible human beings from quite a young age, and they grew into responsible (ish) teens.  I rarely had to exert any discipline as they were mostly self regulating.  

notasm3's picture

A lot of this is just semantics. 

But I really bristle over the whole crap about the brain not being developed until 25 so one must excuse any aberrant behavior from someone younger than 25. 

I graduated from college at 20 - with ZERO parental support. At 24 I managed the installation of a huge groundbreaking telecommunications project in Europe (almost 50 years ago). A system that I wrote at age 23.  So did I do all of that with a brain that was only partially formed? Hell no. And it wasn’t just me. My friends were also achieving major successes. 


Aniki's picture

I bristle over it, too, notasm. I look at so many of my family members and friends who, by age18-20:

  • had a full-time job OR
  • had a part-time job AND attended college FT
  • purchased a car 
  • BOUGHT a house
  • married
  • had children (one friend of mine had her 3rd son at age 20 and is still happily married)

I honestly believe that poor parenting has stunted emotional growth and their children are not prepared to care for themselves because of it.