For the most part, contemporary society violates principles of biology, sociology, psychology, and anthropology.
First: there is this blind insistence that a person becomes an adult at 18, and that even at 17 years 364 days, he is still physically, emotionally, and intellectually the equivalent of a two year. This is due mostly to societal complaisance about the age of majority. We have generally forgotten that it is an artificial constraint that has no bearing on reality. More recently, age of majority has been exploited and abused by ultra-conservatives in efforts to effect censorship.
What we need to do to correct this is two things. One: focus on each person as an individual; two: recognize that a child stops being a child and becomes a biological adult at menarche, for girls, and the onset of nocturnal emissions for boys.
At that point, the prospect should be considered an apprentice-adult.
Secondly: If we did that, then we would be respecting in part the concept of neotony. "Neotony" simply describes a period of time, much like the word "gestation" means the length of time from conception to birth; for humans gestation is nine months. Neotony is the period of time it takes a specimen to go from birth to independent adulthood. In humans, that would be thirteen or fourteen years, perhaps as few as twelve, but it depends on how simple your civilization is, I guess. I suppose in a
semi-nomadic, hunter-gatherer society neotony could be twelve years easily.
In this day and age even eighteen isn't enough in technologized-industrial societies, but we are still wired for 13/14, and there is that that blind belief that a legislated age of majority somehow has an impact on physical reality.
Thirdly: Albert Mazlow once conceived of what he called a hierarchy of needs; a series of society-wide personal desires that every person must fulfill one by one to feel self-worth. He arranged them into a pyramid, but a ladder would have done just as well. The first of his needs, was that a person must feel himself to be a productive member of society. (Which is why the unemployed and poverty stricken are such easy targets for white supremacist recruiting.)
Now, before the Industrial Revolution kicked in, children were pretty much expected to do their fair share of work around the farm or manor, and farm kids today are still learning how to drive tractors as young as seven. And Juliet Capulet was past marrying-age at thirteen. We can still see echoes of thirteen or fourteen being the age of majority today, though, in particular in the Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah, when the prospect stands up in front of friends, family, and congregation and says,
"Today, I am an adult."
In contemporary society, it is not possible to be an independent adult at 13/14. Society has evolved far too quickly for us to have evolved along with it. The result is, along about fifteen or so, adolescents start taking more control over their lives and making more decisions for themselves. Make's 'em hell to live with. But those adolescents who respond this way, do so, in my not so humble opinion, because the have not met the first of Mazlow's needs. This generates a profound pressure on
the prospect. It can be likened to the drive a pupa or chick must feel when it is time to burst out of the chrysalis or egg.
And the result all of this is a condition called acculturation. [...] In sociology, acculturation is basically a condition whereby you feel alienated from society -- thrust outside of it. If a person who is acculturated has no social support group, he can be driven to despair, and thence to suicide.
(The worst cases of acculturation here in Canada, so I believe, are among the amerindians with the highest rates of substance abuse and chemical dependency; especially the Innu of Davis Inlet.)
I believe that we can correct these conditions with an apprentice-adult program. Along about twelve years old, a person's schooling should be directed toward what is expected of them as adults. Classes should accent Social Studies along with History and Geography, and comprehensive sex-ed. A system can even be adopted whereby a prospect is recognized as a biological adult, although it would be easier for girls, of course, not to mention a couple of years sooner for individual girls than for
boys. Just a quick trip to a midwive during that first period, and a certificate can be issued on the spot. It'll be tougher for boys, however, aside from the later maturation; it's not so easy to prove a nocturnal emission, although I suppose a sample could be provided for DNA testing.
At fourteen, another ceremony, like the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, where the prospect is recognized as an adult (with qualifications), and given the right to vote (as well as a recognition of the age of consent). Along with that, as part of his schooling, he would have to provide X hours of community service for credit.
By the time he's sixteen he gets his driver's permit, probationary, having taken courses in driver's ed, substance use and abuse, and chemical dependency. And I mean with real information; not those bloody useless ultra-right wing-nut scare-tactic lectures.
Hell, have 'em stand in for an autopsy if you can swing it!
"So, kids. You think it'd be cool to live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse? Well, here's what one of you would look like at room temperature."
[SWOOOSHHHH!] Off comes the sheet.
"Bllllleeeeeeaaaaaaaacccccchhhhhhhhhhh!" into the buckets.
But I digress.
Eighteen means full franchisement.
I firmly believe that if we did that the rate of teenage suicide would plummet.
Of course, all this would make sense, and it would also mean all those kids would become adults who are able to think for themselves, so you may rest assured that congresscritters and assorted elected officious would only sneer at the idea and say, "Don't be silly, they're just kids! We can't let them grow up that quickly!"