Our expert says:
I don't think the adults of the world have ever gathered to agree on such a definition ! Is this a legal term you have heard of ( in which case you'd need to ask a lawyer ) ? If you mean just what do people mean when they talk about a person becoming an independent adult, then I can have a go. There is an age recognized in law when someone becomes legally an adult, and able, for instance, to sign contracts and so on, on their own. At different times and in different countries it has been 21, 18, and even 16. There are different ages at which the law considers you criminally responsible for breaking the law, too.
But apart from the law, socially we expect someone to start acting like an adult and taking responsibility for their decisions in life, at around the same time. There's a balance between the privileges ( freedom to make your own decisions without someone else being entitled to interfere ) and the responsibilities ( the need to make good and wise decisions, thinking through the possible consequences of our decisions and actions ) and accepting responsibility for what we choose to do
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