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Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Re: Question about Psychology & Maturity

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QUESTION: I have an unexplained question about psychology & maturity.

Let me site some examples:
   - Sometimes you hear about kids that are mature for their age or adults who are immature but you never hear about their maturity levels.
   - In the neighborhood where I grew up in there was a kid down the street from me who was mentally retarded….that “kid” would now be in his 40s but nowhere near mature.
   - A 17 can’t suddenly be mature over night….they can’t just go to bed the night the night before their 18th birthday & wake up in the morning of their 18th birthday & suddenly be more mature then they were yesterday.  Therefore, saying someone is an immature minor at 17 but a mature adult at 18 does not really make any sense.

So how can a number such as someone’s age determine their maturity level or mental competency?

ANSWER: You are correct, age is not the same as maturity, mental competency, or intelligence. Further, we really don't have a complete definition for any of these concepts. We can compare how a person performs on various tasks against a sample population, and we group these performances into something we call IQ. But there are many different types of tasks the human brain is capable of, and we don't test most of them - creativity, decision making, judgment, insight, and social awareness, for example. Many of these tasks are included in what we think of as maturity. But ... maturity is even more poorly defined. In fact, it's really just a lay-person's concept. It's not one that is frequently studied in psychology, because it is so hard to define.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: OK….that tells me a whole bunch of nothing.

Let me ask that same question in a different way with a different example as it is another way to look at what/why I am asking: let me take Dr. Phil for another example - on his show he’s had “kids” on (some over 18 when then were on the show but were younger then 18 when the issues they are on the show for/about) & every single time he tells them something the effect of they are not responsible or had any control over what happen because they were a child & were not capable of making such choices/decisions as they were not mature enough to do so as they were not of age to do so.  So what I am asking is if 18 is the [legal] age of someone being psychology mature & therefore able to make mature decisions then what are the scientific facts that proves that someone is not psychology mature until they reach the age of 18 but are in fact psychology mature at that very precise time - as indicated in the 17/18 overnight/birthday example I had given previously?

ANSWER: Ah, well, Andy, that makes more sense. I think the problem is - the way I see it - you are conflating psychological concepts with legal concepts, and maturity with responsibility. One is not legally responsible when they are under 18, and legally responsible for their behavior on their 18th birthday. That has nothing to do with psychology.

The law DOES give SOME ability to make decisions, for teens. Depends on the issue and the state. That recognizes that people mature gradually.

Also, you should know that, although Dr. Phil has a psychology degree, he is no longer licensed, and the show is not psychology- it is entertainment.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: No, I am NOT “conflating psychological concepts with legal concepts, and maturity with responsibility”, I am asking about ALL of it - how someone’s psychological growth (for lack of a better word) & maturity level/competency makes them capable to understand legal concepts & the responsible accountability of such.  You say “One is not legally responsible when they are under 18, and legally responsible for their behavior on their 18th birthday” but “That has nothing to do with psychology.” when IT ACTUALLY DOES as the last time I checked (which was JUST NOW as I just looked up “psychology” on Wikipedia as I type this) & the VERY FIRST [1ST] SENTENCE THERE says “Psychology is the study of mind and behavior.” & continues in the remainder of the first (1st) paragraph “It is an academic discipline and an applied science which seeks to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles and researching specific cases.  In this field, a professional practitioner or researcher is called a psychologist and can be classified as a social, behavioral, or cognitive scientist.  Psychologists attempt to understand the role of mental functions in individual and social behavior, while also exploring the physiological and biological processes that underlie cognitive functions and behaviors.” which is EXACTLY WHAT I AM ASKING ABOUT - the social, behavioral or cognitive science of it as an academic discipline & applied science of individuals via the general principles & researched specific cases thereto.  Now, you are a psychologist so I AM AKING YOU ABOUT the role of mental functions in individual and social behavior with the physiological & biological processes of the questions I have asked!  How could I get any of that conflated?  Therefore, you STILL HAVE NOT answered my question(s)!

Also, when you say “Also, you should know that, although Dr. Phil has a psychology degree, he is no longer licensed, and the show is not psychology- it is entertainment.” it sounds like you are saying Dr. Phil is a kook that has NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what he is talking about!  Now, if a psychologist would call (imply, suggest or whatever) another psychologist (be it former or retired) a kook what does that say about other psychologists?  Wouldn’t that make you all kooks?  He also DOES STILL PROVIDE HELP to his guests as he also says [his help] DOESN’T END WHEN THE SHOW IT OVER, IT THAT IS JUST THE BEGINNING & CONTINUES LONG-AFTER THE CAMERAS STOP ROLLING & there is also all of the background/research that goes on about/with the guests before they even film a show….so how can you say it is just entertainment?  Of course there is an entertainment element to it for TV purposes but I think it is fair to say that his guests wouldn’t just put themselves out there & go on his show simply for the amusement of others - which is actually what entertainment is - so as a psychologist yourself you saying that is not very professional on your part!

Answer
I am NOT “conflating psychological concepts with legal concepts, and maturity with responsibility”
--- with respect, you asked for my opinion, and thats what it is. For example, you said,

"saying someone is an immature minor at 17 but a mature adult at 18 does not really make any sense."
---- you are right, of course - in a psychological sense, that is not possible. Only in a legal sense is it possible.

"One is ... legally responsible ... but “That has nothing to do with psychology.” when IT ACTUALLY DOES as ... Psychology is the study of mind and behavior."
---- I think you make my point - psychology is about mind and behavior, not legal responsibility

"the role of mental functions in individual and social behavior with the physiological & biological processes"
---- I'm not sure exactly what this means, but the brain/mind develops from birth until about ago 30. Perhaps what you are asking about is decision making capability. There are many aspects to that function, but primarily they are controlled by the frontal lobes of the brain. The frontal lobes are the last part of the brain to develop, and we see adult-type functions beginning to develop starting at about the age of 12, and finishing about age 30 (in men, earlier in women). Planning and impulse control are 2 examples of these functions.

" Wouldn’t that make you all kooks?"
---- not only did I not say that, your logic escapes me. I assume he is smart, because he was able to get a doctorate in psychology.

"how can you say it is just entertainment?"
---- that's the reason he dropped his license. He was facing disciplinary hearings because he was doing things, as a psychologist, that were not psychology. Now that he is not licensed, he can do about anything - EXCEPT psychology. In fact, if he WAS doing psychology, he would face charges from the state for the unlicensed practice of psychology.

BTW, I never said that it is "just entertainment", as you suggest I did. I make no opinion about the value of entertainment - that's outside the area of my expertise.

Psychiatry & Psychology--General

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Bruce Borkosky, Psy.D.

Expertise

any related to psychology, especially related to forensic psychology

Experience

15 years as a licensed psychologist, 15 years in private practice. My practice began primarily doing individual and group psychotherapy, is now devoted to assessments, but I occasionally do take on clients in therapy.

Organizations
American Psychological Association

Education/Credentials
B.A. psychology, B.A., music, Ohio Wesleyan U., 1978 MCS, computer science, University of Dayton, 1984 MA, psychology, Miami Inst. of Psychology, 1991 Psy.D., psychology, Miami Inst. of Psychology, 1993 post doctoral training in Neuropsychology, Fielding Institute, 1995-1997

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