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16 February 2010 @ 09:29 pm
"What is a grown-up?"  
One of my grad students came in this morning and said, "This question came up in class [Adult Ed] last night, and no one could satisfactorily define it. 'What is a grown-up?'"

My first question was, "Grown-up or adult?" and my second was, "If grad students who study this sort of thing can't answer it, why are you asking me?"

Anyway, my answer was, "A grown-up is someone who assesses risks and rewards before taking action, and acts to minimize the risks and maximize the rewards, while doing as little harm to others as possible."

So, for example, it's acceptably grown-up to put your best foot forward when applying for and interviewing for a job, even though it's almost certain that if you are hired, someone else will be harmed by not being hired. It's not acceptable or grown-up to actively sabotage another candidate. By my definition.

However, I don't study these things, and so I'm probably wrong, and so I would be interested in how you would define a grown-up.
siliconshaman on February 17th, 2010 01:42 pm (UTC)
To me, your definition of grown-up sounds more like 'decent person'.

I'm not surprised that 'grown-up' is difficult to define, given that I suspect it doesn't actually exist. It's a cultural construct that has no real bearing on reality.

By any of the definitions in this thread, one can be a 'grown-up' at any age...or fail to be. Ergo, given that "grown-up" as a phrase implies an age-related process of maturation...then it's meaningless as a defining term in relation to the actual definitions.

Edited at 2010-02-17 01:48 pm (UTC)
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on February 17th, 2010 01:53 pm (UTC)
Well, that's why I asked if he meant "grown-up" or "adult". Because I know legal adults who fail at grown-up, and a lot of putative children who would qualify.
Janet Miles, CAP-OM: thoughtfuljanetmiles on February 17th, 2010 10:27 pm (UTC)
To me, your definition of grown-up sounds more like 'decent person'.

Well, no, not necessarily.

It is well known that I don't much like children. Part of the reason is that they don't act like adults. However, I don't (usually) assume that they aren't decent people just because they don't think ahead, and leap without looking, and so on.

Similarly, someone who is severely mentally disabled may not be able to take primary responsibility for his or her own life, but may still be a kind, decent human being.