Monday, January 30, 2006

At what age are you an adult?

Yesterday on Radio Australia, I heard an interesting story on the Innovations program about research being done on the brain to ascertain at what age it has fully developed. Surprisingly researchers have found that it is not until about the age of 25 that a brain can truly be termed adult. This has implications for public policy and the criminal justice system. In Australia, you are considered an adult at 18 years of age and at this point, you can legally drink, drive and be tried as an adult in a court of law. Young adult men some of whom end up in adult prisons conduct most risky behaviour, which according to the researchers, does not normally end until the age of 25. A suggestion therefore is to establish a new tier of the criminal justice system for young people between the ages of 18 and 25. I think this a good idea. But what about drinking and driving? Both of which are the cause of many preventable deaths of this age group. Would we accept raising the minimum age from 18 to 25 (I doubt it)?

If we are not really adults until we are 25, should we also not become parents until at least this age? Although biologically we might be ready in our early teens, our brains are now telling us otherwise. (As my father used to say, as soon as a girl starts menstruating, she is ready for childbearing, which may be biologically true but it isn’t physiologically, psychologically or emotionally thus.)

Just imagine a youth and family policy for Timor, which encouraged its ever-burgeoning population of young people not to become parents until at least the age of 25. (This of course would require that sex education be taught at school and contraception made widely and cheaply available.) Imagine how many fewer babies would be born to each woman? Imagine how many fewer deaths of both mother and baby and attendant suffering there would be? Just imagine what the women of Timor could also do and accomplish with their lives if they were not burdened to carry, feed and nurture 8 young lives?

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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