Ethno-racial identity and cultural power
Geographers at Work: race, ethnicity, and youth.

Who is a youth?

A source of confusion and puzzlement this week was over what we mean by "youth," or how we can distinguish "youth" from "children" and "adults."

As mentioned in class, in many places, these transitions may be signified by rituals, e.g., moving from high school to college, and also legal markers, e.g., ages for legally buying marijuana or alcohol. 

But, as we also discussed in class, these representations often do not reflect what people at different ages actually do, or, how they feel about themselves, which may or may not fit with what's represented as natural or normal for a certain age.

This article at Quartz reports on research that tries to understand what people in the U.S. think they need to do before they "feel" like adults, while this article at The Atlantic looks more broadly at how people may negotiate their own transitions from child, to youth, to adult.

What do you think about how these articles represent these moments? Do they reflect your own experience? Would it be useful or meaningful to try to pin down these feelings to specific ages or ranges of ages? Or if we want to understand what people do at different times in their lives, do we also need to accept some ambiguity in how people might see themselves as children, as youths, and as adults?


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 McKenzie Brown

I really didn't quite care for the Quartz article. The idea that adulthood is tied to marriage and/or becoming a parent seems ridiculous to me. I don't agree that maturity comes from partnership or parenthood, as though maturity only comes from sharing equally in a romantic relationship or from being responsible for another life. I just disagree.


I agree with the comment above, marriage or becoming responsible for your own dependents does not always define the moment when a person becomes an adult. Becoming an adult is different for every individual, could happen at the age of 18 or 30 and in many ways. The feeling of becoming an adult could be getting to the adult legal age, maturity, moving away from home, getting a job, becoming independent or even as simple as being able to make your own doctors/dentist appointments. I believe that there is an average age range for different aspect that people achieve in their life but becoming an adult should not be pin pointed to a specific age or one single path you take in life.

Madison Overholser

I read both the articles and I found it to be interested that the Quartz Article Measured adulthood by the achievement of 5 Steps: Finishing School, leaving home, Acquiring stable work, marrying and parenting. On the other hand the Atlantic says that adulthood is more of a blurry concept and no-one really knows when the become and adult. I personally believe they are both correct. I do find the 5 steps to be adult mile-markers but at the same time I question if adulthood is as solid of a concept as we imagine it to be. I am 21 but I already feel like an adult. I work a solid job and I have lived independently and financially apart from my parents since I was 18. In addition I am nearly done with school and I have a long term significant other where marriage is part of the discussion. I honestly that adulthood comes at different times and places for each person because only they can determine if they have reached that point of adulthood that they want to reach.

Blake Egli

I agree in almost all of your comments above but reading the article I don't really believe they were trying to solely link parenthood to feeling like an adult. That was a big one but of course that's a big one. You're taking care of another human. That's just the biggest of the five steps because when parenthood hits you literally have all the other steps affected at once.

Blake Egli

I liked the article and its 5 steps of adulthood was pretty accurate. At 22 I believe I'm youthful and somewhat of an adult. The only part that I'm not fully an adult is my insurance. I live with my partner and I'm financially independent, I pay tuition, I have a full time job and I am a parent to my cat. I don't really agree with finishing school because I have people who are fifty in some of my courses.

Kamalei P.

The Quartz article talks about our path to becoming adults. It talks about crossing age thresholds, following the traditional path to become an adult and made a list of the 5 important role transitions that take us into adulthood: finishing school, leaving home, acquiring stable work, marrying and parenting. However, this is not always the case since everyone is different and lives in different areas that influence the way on how they think, what ‘becoming adults’ is actually like. So in the end, there is no simple or correct way to do things. Even The Atlantic article agrees that there is no answer, or that there is a variety of complex answers. In my opinion, I’ve always thought that it was based on the individual and how they see themselves. For example, I would consider myself moving from my youth to adulthood, when I’m finally able to support myself on my own with a job and paying my own bills. But someone else might have their own definition of adulthood, like I said, it all depends on the individual and their belief system.

Matt Herbert

I would be comfortable with the idea of accepting ambiguity when it comes to defining adulthood. I understand the author is trying to pin-point certain milestones that define adulthood, however, becoming an adult involves the process of becoming more mature, which takes time and looks different from person to person. The description of adulthood in this article was also very "American." For example, it is commonplace for people in Asian countries to remain at home and not move out after high school. In America, moving out is commonly expected and signifies independence and maturity. Could the definition of adulthood be different from culture to culture? Or is there a more broad definition that encompasses all people?

Mack Little

I really agree with Blake on this one. Going from a child all the way up to parenthood is kind of a scary thing to think about. You have to have all five of the steps completed before actually being able to take on the responsibility of another living life. There is a giant leap from adulthood to parenthood that you have to take.

Ming Ng

I agree with Kama, the Quartz article gave a definition or example of what distinguishes age thresholds. I think that no one can say what age you are or what you fall in because people are different. Their personalities and the things they do make them who they are and not their age. I liked how the Atlantic article did not give an answer on what exactly is child, youth and adult. In all, it really depends on the person, its just that in America we like to group people.

Peggy  Smith

The Quartz article was interesting as I am a bit older than the youth that is just starting out on the paths that the Quartz article points out as several versions to a common end result. Today, I think that many young adults have a more difficult time with the get married and have kid scenario. The economy today is prohibitive of having children right away and most young adults will be living in apartments and paying rent for a very long time. My experience many years ago, I remember the day that I felt like a grown up, I had called my mom for advice, which I did a lot and she gave me word for word what I was thinking the best thing to do. I was 34 years old. That's when I knew I was an adult.


I feel like the adulthood path can't be categorized in any groups or by people hitting curtain age, people can graduate from college but cheat all the way through it. some people will never have kids because they don't think they can take on that role, which to me is a very adult decision. So defining adulthood and youth are two challenging tasks that simply have to do person by person. I feel like you become and adult when you start to recognize everything that goes into life, and what you need to do to be successful. Whether its a teen mom, or a 50 year old that's finally getting a job with a 401k.

Yifan Lu

I agree with the five important role transitions marking adulthood: finishing school, leaving home, acquiring stable work, marrying and parenting. But I think everyone is different, they may have different role transitions. It's difficult to determine whether you are transit to a adult completely, because different people have different determine ways.

Jiayue Wang

Each age moment have its meaning, such as children and youth have to go to school, and adult could choice what they to do. Even if it does not have accurate age, people grow up gradually. If teenager drop school early, they have to face the social earlier, and step to another age range quickly, so I think it would be meaningful to try to pin down these feelings to specific ages or ranges of ages, to protect the normal growing up. We need to accept some ambiguity in how people might see themselves as children, as youths, or adults, if we want to understand what people do at different times in their lives.

Rachel Rosenbaum

I personally really enjoyed this article because I felt a personal connection to it! I believe that we do honestly take a million different paths before reaching a certain point in adulthood. But what I find most interesting is everbody's different perception on the topic.

John Stone

I feel like the 5 steps in the Quartz article are mostly accurate when it comes to feeling like an adult, but I'd remove 'parenthood' from the list. I don't think you need to be a parent to be considered an adult, and there's plenty of people who just don't want to have kids. Anyone can feel like an adult at different points, it just depends on where life is taking you. The Atlantic article brought up chronological age, and while I agree that there should be a biological adulthood determined by your physical maturity, social adulthood shouldn't be defined by age. I personally feel like its important to remain a little youthful throughout life as well as acting like a responsible adult; age shouldn't define that.

Jeanette Betancourt

I don't agree with everything the articles say, but they were interesting to read about other people's perspective of someone becoming an adult, although the 5 steps don't always go in order. And I agree with John you don't have to become a parent to be considered a parent. People can do the steps in a different way and still be called adults not just because of the age but also depends on maturity and being able to be independent, not having to depend on someone all the time, and stick up for yourself.

Moe Tobiyama

I I thought we become an adult if we over 20years old. In Japan, when we become 20, we have a coming age celebration, and this is one of the biggest event in our life. When we are over 20 years old, we come to be regarded as an adult socially, and at the same time, there are a lot of things which we can, for example drinking alcohol, getting married, and so on. Therefore, I thought 20 years old is the turning point between youth and adult.


I was gone for the class sidcussions on age and youth, but I think it can be a really relevant and interesting topic especially for many collage students. The quarts article brings up some interesting points about adulthood, and what that means. I think something that should be taken into more consideration is that there are many different types of adult lives. The article places a lot of emphesis on getting married and having children; however this isn’t a path all adults take. Having a child can be a quick and clear defining way to feel like an adult, but it is possible in other ways too. I think that personaly it happened slowly over time. Moving out, paying for things, changing my permanent address, all of these factors help me feel like an adult, but they didnt all happen at once.

Christian Hammerich

I agree with Mack, that every individual person takes a different path to adult hood and that the leap from adulthood to parenthood is very large. People could feel like and adult at 18 others may not. At 18 we are legally considered an adult. However, people take multiple ways to personally feeling like an adult. I like the Quartz article because it shows that there are multiple ways on feeling like an adult.

Maria Regalado

I agree with mostly everyone above but in my opinion i dont consider anyone an adult unless they are living on their own and they are financially independent. teenagers can be responsible but if they are not living on their own i still consider them 'youth'

Kaylee Mok

Determining the difference between a youth and adult seems easy, but it actually confused me quite a bit. If you look up the actual definitions of youth and adult you will find that an adult is "a person who is fully grown or developed" and a youth is "a young person who is between adolescence and maturity." So the main difference I feel is the maturity level of a person. But, someone who is young can be very mature and not be considered an adult so this topic still puzzles me a little.

Moana Gianotti

I think that the difference between a youth and an adult cannot be clearly defined. In the Quartz article there are five steps to becoming an adult, such as finishing school, leaving home, acquiring stable work, marrying, and parenting. However, I do not believe that these five steps clearly define what actually becoming an adult looks like, many people don't do any of these things listed here, but are considered adults. I think there are also other factors that go into separating youths and adults such as, age, their mental state, dependency, etc.

Ana Bautista

I do not agree with the quartz article. The part where it explains that most people to feel like adults until they become parents I disagree with. I feel like I became an adult when I financially independent. I do not have any children and yet when I get bills to pay, I know that responsibility is mine as an adult. The other article claims you only feel like an adult. I do not know if I agree because that means you are always a child? Being an adult is both reaching milestones and maturing mentally and emotionally.

Sam Combs

In class, for some reason the big detector of adult was the age of 21 because everything becomes legal officially. I totally disagreed with that. I think it fluctuates per person per time period per surroundings. If I am shipped off to war, I will probably grow up really quickly. If I have to become the mother/father figure in my household, I become an adult really quickly. If I become pregnant and keep the baby, I become an adult. I think that the age of the person has very little to do with the happenstance of adulthood.


The 5 different paths that people take article was interesting to me, I agreed with it in a sense but didn't at the same time because there are other ways that people can take where they would consider themselves as adults. I have considered myself as an adult since before starting college, I've been a very mature woman since I was in my teens. I don't live with my parents, I have a job and I pay for my own stuff, this is the reason why I say I'm an adult.

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