Transition to Adulthood --> Rites of Passage and ritual Cross Culturally

Essay by katie_2507University, Bachelor'sA-, April 2008

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The Oxford dictionary defines adulthood as "The state of being adult; complete development". However, this definition is not entirely explanatory of the whole notion of adulthood as it remains vague and unspecific. What exactly is "being adult"? Perhaps the biological definition of adulthood is something to the extent of, "the stage at which the physical human body has completely developed". In human beings this would probably be reached by the end of puberty. But surely there is more to it than this. Certainly "complete development" must also include mental and emotional development? These types of development, unlike the physical development which occurs involuntarily by purely biological means, are the result of something else, and that something is called culture. By definition, culture is "sets of learned behavior and ideas that humans acquire as members of society. Humans use culture to adapt to and transform the world in which we live."

So is "adulthood" a biological or cultural phenomenon?Human beings follow the same paths of biological development irrespective of their different cultural backgrounds. Therefore, if biology was the prime determinant of the attainment of adulthood status, all people throughout the world would reach adulthood at approximately the same age. It would also mean that the completion of puberty would mark the formal entrance into adulthood. Just by looking at our Western social culture alone it is clear that attainment of adult characteristics certainly does not mean attainment of adult status. The average age the beginning of puberty in developed countries is 11.2 for girls and 11.6 for boys. Does this mean that at this stage the individual is expected to instantly take on a new role as a mature adult in society? I feel that although biology is the basis of human development, it culture which determines the point that a...