Since most Americans do not practice rites of passage, how do we know when adolescence ends and adulthood begins? What psychological features do we expect to see in adolescents? What psychological features do we expect to see in adults?
It seems like today the appearance of adulthood is at a younger and younger age but the age when adolescents actually become adults is getting older and older. When I drop my daughter off at her middle school it has become increasingly difficult to know which people are women and which people are middle schoolers. At the same time, adolescents are actually growing up slower. A person has to overcome the problems of their parents, the problems of their youth, and the problems of their identity before they can enter adulthood. That is my take on it. Everyone tries so hard not to inherit the bad traits of their parents. Everyone goes through tough times in their teen years. That is just part of being a teenager. But until someone has established their identity as a person I don’t see how they could ever be an adult. Unfortunately, sometimes people never become adults by this definition. You are not an adult until you know who you are. Adolescence ends when the person within becomes the person without.
Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2005). Psychology (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.