Childhood and Adulthood
Introduction: Childhood and adulthood are two different – but equally important – times in our lives. This article compares and contrasts childhood and adulthood in depth.
What is childhood? Childhood is the period of time when we are still growing up. Childhood is often contrasted with the period of ‘infancy’, in which we are still young babies.
As children, we can think and speak for ourselves, but we have yet to become adults.
What is adulthood? Adulthood is the time in our life when we are ‘grown up’, though we may still be developing as people.
Throughout the world, the beginning of adulthood is usually legally deemed to occur at a certain age – for instance 18 or 21 years old.
However, it can also be argued that we become adults as soon as we become independent, responsible for our own actions, and able to participate as part of society.
Differences between childhood and adulthood.
Childhood is a time when we must live according to our parents’ rules, and obey the rules of our schools as well. By contrast, during adulthood we have much more independence and can generally choose things like where we want to live, what we want to eat, and what job we will do.
Childhood is generally characterized as a period of our lives in which we are relatively free of care: people are looking after us and taking care of our needs for us. By contrast, during adulthood, we need to take more responsibility for ourselves – this can include financial responsibility as well as moral responsibility for our actions.
As adults, we have accrued much more knowledge and experience of the world than we possess as children. This knowledge can come from formal education, but it can also come from simply interacting with other people in the world.
Though it might be argued that adults have more responsibilities than children, they also have a greater degree of freedom. One example is travel. Children can very often not travel unaccompanied whereas an adult can go wherever they want, whenever they want. Another example is deciding what to do with their day. Adults do not need to ask their parents’ permission if they want to go out to see friends or do a little shopping. By contrast, children usually need to ask their parents if they are allowed to do certain things – and they certainly cannot do them during school hours.
Adults have built up a larger store of memories than children have. In fact, we usually cannot remember anything earlier than our third or fourth year of life: many of our childhood memories are lost to us. As a result, adults have more of a longer life history, and a richer store of experience than children do.
Childhood is often defined as a period of innocence, when we are shielded from the challenges and difficulties of life. By contrast, it is often argued that part of being an adult involves facing up to these challenges head on. However, many people say that in fact children are not as innocent as we would believe them to be, and that they are perfectly capable of understanding difficult situations (for instance, a parent’s illness) with maturity and emotional depth. Parents often find that shielding their children from ‘unpleasant’ facts can simply frustrate the child or make it hard for them to face such facts head on later in life.
As children, we are often seen in relation to our parents – the child of so and so. However, as adults, we are identified in different ways: for instance, by our job, by our education, or by our hobbies and interests. It may be asked, though, whether this is an intrinsic difference between children and adults, or whether this is simply due to the ways in which other people view us differently when we are children and when we are adults.
As children, we look up to our parents for love and guidance. Though this is still a feature of our relationship with our parents when we become adults, as adults we can also become parents ourselves. Moreover, very often, our experiences of childhood help to shape the types of parents that we become during adulthood. And, in their turn, our children may use us as their models when they come to be parents themselves. Thus, it is important to always strive to be a loving, good parent as we are thereby setting a good example for our children to follow.
As adults, we tend to have a wider range of skills than children do. For example, adults can drive a car, write in joined up handwriting, do more complex mathematical sums and so on. These are things that children either find difficult to do or are even legally forbidden to do. Nonetheless, it is also true that children sometimes have a greater aptitude for learning new skills than adults do. It is said, for example, that it is easier to learn a second language fluently as a child than as an adult.
- Bodily differences.
Growing taller, getting a deeper voice (for men), and noticing gray hairs are all bodily differences that mark adults out as different from children. Another physical difference between children and adults is that children will often seem to have more energy than adults too – and will be running around and playing games all of the time – and yet children will also get tired earlier in the day and require more sleep than adults do. Being aware of the physical differences between children and adults is important for medical professionals as it enables them to give the very best care to all of their patients, both young and old.
There are definitely differences between childhood and adulthood. However, this distinction is not always as sharp as we initially think. And, of course, everyone is an individual with their own experiences of being a child and then becoming an adult. So, what are the key differences between childhood and adulthood for you? Is there anything that you think should be added to the 10 points above?