Men Mature at What Age?!
University at Buffalo
If you’ve ever worked with traditionally-aged college men and have had to respond to immature behavior, you may have asked yourself, “when will these guys grow-up?” Well, a research study was recently commissioned by Nickelodeon UK (yes, the children’s network) in Great Britain to find out the answer to that very question. According to this study, men don’t fully mature until they reach 43 years of age!
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I haven’t actually read the original research study so I can’t comment on the validity of their research methods, the scope of their study, or how the researchers landed on the age of 43; however, the numerous articles that I have read summarizing this study all point to the same conclusion – men lack maturity. More specifically, men are perceived to be immature by women. For example, 46% of women indicated that they had to play mother to their male partner and a majority of women have had to tell her partner to “act his age” more than once a month – an average of 14 times a year.
The top five (out of 30!) maturity failings that women indicated about men according the study were:
1. Finding bodily gas funny
2. Eating fast food at 2:00 AM
3. Playing videogames
4. Driving too fast or “racing” another car at traffic lights or on the freeway
5. Snickering at rude words
It is worth noting, that it’s not only women who find men immature – evidentially men also found themselves to be immature. Both men and women acknowledged that women reached maturity much earlier than men, typically at 32 years old (that’s an 11 year gap between the sexes!). Men were also nearly twice as likely to describe themselves as immature than were women with about 25% of men indicating they were actively immature.
When I first read about this study, I stopped to think about myself and if I considered myself to be mature (or if others might perceive me as immature). I’m relatively well-educated, have a stable career, have been married for several years with an 18 month-old daughter, cook my own meals, wash my own clothes, and pay my mortgage and bills on time. At 30 years old, I would say that I’m doing alright. But it also makes me think, is maturity a measure of what one has accomplished or is it more of a state of mind? For me, it was only about a year and a half ago when my daughter was born that I began to truly feel mature (I guess having another human life dependent on you changes a person).
Although this particular study just recently came out, it doesn’t reveal anything shockingly new about men’s perceived maturity deficit. In Michael Kimmel’s 2008 book Guyland, he writes of a world where prolonged adolescence and delayed adulthood among men is commonplace and immaturity is a state of being for some guys who are putting off adulthood.
I can’t help but notice that these studies paint a pretty grim picture of the men who inhabit our college campuses today. In fact, according to the study I referenced earlier, a man won’t reach maturity for a full 20 years after he’s graduated from college! As a culture, I’m afraid that studies like the one mentioned above give credence to a “boys will be boys” mentality where men will succumb to the notion that society expects less of them and their immature behavior is acceptable or even charming.
So what does that mean for student affairs professionals like you and me who have made it our life’s-work to develop emotionally intelligent, successful and mature college men? Should we just throw our hands up in frustration and devote our time and energy into something else? Although I appreciate the fact that some men might not see themselves as mature, I will continue to challenge the men that I work with to be productive contributors to our campus community by holding them to a high standards and helping them realize that maturity is not measured by one’s accomplishments, but the quality of one’s character.