What is Maturity - and Who's Got It?
By Bryan Caplan
Like most interesting words, “maturity” is hard to define. The most literal definition is just “how much you act like an adult.” But since adult behavior varies widely, and we often call some adults “immature,” that’s not very helpful. As far as I can tell, the most important components of maturity are:
1. Orientation toward work rather than play.
2. Taking a long-run view rather than acting impulsively or spontaneously.
3. Being serious rather than silly.
4. Identifying with – and taking the side of – older people.
A colleague disputed a more primitive version of #3. In his view, what people do in their free time can’t affect their “maturity.” I say he’s wrong. I’m quite open to the view that maturity is over-rated, but in ordinary usage there is definitely such a thing as “immature humor.” The Three Stooges is immature, and if you enjoy it, so are you.
So who’s mature, and who’s not? The most obvious generalization is that maturity increases with age. By my criteria, it’s not a necessary truth, but nonetheless hard to deny. Further conjectures:
Higher-IQ people probably tend to be a little more mature, but primarily because they score higher on #2.
Educational attainment and maturity are more tightly linked: People higher in #1, #2, and/or #3 are naturally more successful in school.
Perhaps more controversially, by all four measures, women are (a) more mature than men at a given age, and (b) mature at a faster rate. I’m not confident that this is true cross-culturally. Remember this piece claiming that gender gaps are bigger in more “modern” societies? But at least in the modern U.S., the maturity gap seems pretty obvious.
1. Are there any important components of maturity that I’m missing?
2. Are you aware of any data against which we can test my conjectures?