The termThe term adult has at least three distinct meanings.

It can indicate a biologically grown or
mature person. It may also mean a plant, animal, or person who has reached full growth or alternatively is capable of reproduction, or the classification legal adult, generally determined as a person who has attained the legally fixed age of majority; as opposed to a minor. Adulthood can be defined in biology, 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 define adult character. Coming of age is an event; passing a series of tests to demonstrate the child 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.

The termThe adult describes any mature organism, but normally it refers to a human: one that is no longer a child / minor and is now either a man or a woman. Coming of age is the event of becoming an adult, i.e. of entering adulthood. Historically, adulthood has been determined by puberty, which is physical or biological adulthood; passing a series of tests to demonstrate the child 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. "Adult" also means "not considered suitable for children", in particular as a euphemism for being related to sexual behaviour, such as adult entertainment, adult video, adult magazine, adult bookstore. However, adult education simply means education for adults, not particularly sex education. There are some qualities that symbolize adultness in most cultures. Not always is there a concordance between the qualities and the physical age of the person. The adult character is comprised of: Self-control - restraint, emotional control. Stability - stable personality, strength. Independence - ability to self-regulate. Seriousness - ability to deal with life in a serious manner. Responsibility - accountability, commitment and reliability. Method/Tact - ability to think ahead and plan for the future, patience. Endurance - ability and willingness to cope with difficulties that present themselves.  Experience - breadth of mind, understanding.
      

 Objectivity - perspective and realism.
Louise left school last summer after she had finished her GCSEs. She was excluded from her local comprehensive before she took her exams and moved to another school nearby were she found it very difficult to settle and make friends. The situation that had caused Louise and her mother to go to the council followed an incident at home. Louise had gone out with friends returning home drunk at 3am, parents were very angry and had locked her out. Louise created such a scene that they let her in, a row followed and Louise put her foot through a wall. The police were called, who managed to calm Louise down. Louise has one older brother and two younger brothers all living at home. Both parents work full time. Louise has admitted that she takes 'recreational drugs'. She is keen to stay at home if she cannot have her own flat and does not want to go into a hostel. Mrs Brown says that she has always had 'trouble' with Louise. When Louise was little she used to hold her breath until she went blue in order to get her own way. Mrs Brown and her husband would like Louise to be able to stay at home but feel that they can no longer cope with her attitude and the way she treats the rest of the family. They are concerned that Louise is taking drugs and have therefore stopped giving her any money. Mr Brown has said that by 'evicting' Louise it will teach her a lesson and if she changes her ways they will take her back. Both Mr & Mrs Brown are concerned at how angry Louise gets and do not know how to handle it. They also feel that Louise could get a better job than a shop assistant, even if it meant studying again. Mrs Brown doesn't want Louise to go to a hostel - she has heard it is not a 'nice' place but does not know how she will cope with Louise if she stays at home. The mediators spent a considerable amount of time with both parties individually and face to face. They worked on the 'positives' in the situation and how they were going to manage the 'negatives'. They helped Mr & Mrs Brown to recognise and appreciate Louise's good points and actions and Louise to understand Mr and Mrs Brown's concerns and what she could do to make life more bearable. An agreement, which both parties prepared, was written up and signed by them. It was agreed that Louise could stay at home for the time being and that the mediators would contact them after a couple of months (either party could contact them earlier if felt it was necessary).

Historically and cross-culturally, adulthood has been determined primarily by the start of puberty (the appearance of secondary sex characteristics such as menstruation in women, ejaculation in men, and pubic hair in both sexes). In the past a person usually moved from the status of child directly to the status of adult, often with this shift being marked by some type of coming-of-age test or ceremony. Today as in the past, most medical and general English dictionaries define childhood as the period from infancy to puberty, thus historically adulthood began with puberty. After the social construct of adolescence was created, adulthood split into two forms: social adulthood and biological adulthood. Thus, there are now two primary forms of adults: biological adults (people who have attained reproductive ability, are fertile, or who evidence secondary sex characteristics) and social adults (people who are recognized by their culture and/or law as being adults). Depending on the context, adult can indicate either definition. Although few or no established dictionaries provide a definition for the two word term biological adult, the first definition of adult in multiple dictionaries includes "the stage of the life cycle of an animal after reproductive capacity has been attained". Thus, the base definition of the word adult is the period beginning at puberty. Although this is the primary definition of the base word adult, the two word term biological adult stresses or clarifies that the original definition, based on the beginning of puberty, is being used (that is, the organism has matured to the biologically important point of being able to reproduce).

Although there is no scientific agreement on when physical maturation completes, in modern society social adulthood somewhat corresponds to the completion of physical maturation. Because the term adult is most often used without the adjective social or biological, and since the term is frequently used to refer to social adults, some writers have mistaken the meaning of the two word phrase biological adult to begin at the end of physical maturation rather than the onset of puberty. In modern developed countries, puberty and therefore biological adulthood generally begins around 10 years of age for girls and 12 years of age for boys, though this will vary from person to person.

In western countries the relevant age points largely correspond to divisions in the educational system. Young people in grade school are generally not adults (up to about 12 years of age), those in junior high school (11 to 15) and high school (14 to 18) are biological adults but for most purposes are not social adults, and those who have graduated from high school (18 or over) are often recognized as social adults in addition to being biological adults.

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