Maturity is a psychological term used to indicate that a person responds to the circumstances or environment in an appropriate and adaptive manner. This response is generally learned rather than instinctual, and is not determined by one's age. Maturity also encompasses being aware of the correct time and place to behave and knowing when to act in serious or non-serious ways.
Psychologist B.W. Roberts explains that in an explicit model of personality, one's personality must be viewed from both the perspective of the actor and the perspective of the observer. Therefore, one's maturity is not measured solely on introspection, but by how others view one's maturity as well. By this definition, how an individual feels about himself is no more legitimate than how others feel about him, and so it is important that this individual gains a certain level of maturity as he grows older to earn the respect of others.
However, maturity need not reflect one's actions in a social situation among well-known peers, as in these situations there is no need to establish a sense of maturity as once maturity is established, it by no means has to be a norm. Furthermore, one need not establish maturity on how others view their personality, because a casual observer cannot totally judge someone he or she does not know on a personal level.
Maturity is something of personal character, or how one acts in stressful or difficult situations, because then a person's true ability to react to a situation can be seen. Artificial social interactions are often misjudged as many people rely on outward appearance to mask inner strengths/weaknesses so as to present a simpler version of oneself to the world.
While it has been shown that older persons are generally more mature, psychological maturity is not determined by one's age. However, for legal purposes, people are not considered psychologically mature enough to perform certain tasks (such as driving, consenting to sex, signing a binding contract or making medical decisions) until they have reached a certain age. In fact, judge Julian Mack, who helped create the juvenile court system in the United States, said that juvenile justice was based on the belief that young people do not always make good decisions because they are not mature, but this means that they can be reformed more easily than adults. However, the relationship between psychological maturity and age is a difficult one, especially when it comes to the law. Immaturity is often used to distinguish between adolescents and adults, and there has been much debate over how to tell if someone is mature, especially regarding social issues like abortion.
The more complex civilization becomes, the more difficult will become the art of living. The more rapid the changes in social usage, the more complicated will become the task of character development. Every ten generations mankind must learn anew the art of living if progress is to continue. And if man becomes so ingenious that he more rapidly adds to the complexities of society, the art of living will need to be remastered in less time, perhaps every single generation. If the evolution of the art of living fails to keep pace with the technique of existence, humanity will quickly revert to the simple urge of living--the attainment of the satisfaction of present desires. Thus will humanity remain immature; society will fail in growing up to full maturity.
- Sheldon, K. M.; T. Kasser (2001). "Getting Older, Getting Better? Personal Strivings and Psychological Maturity Across the Life Span". Developmental Psychology 37 (4): 491-501.
- Mack, J. W. (1909). "The Juvenile Court". Harvard Law Review 23: 104.
- Steinberg, Laurence; Elizabeth Cauffman (1996-06). "Maturity of Judgment in Adolescence: Psychosocial Factors in Adolescent Decision Making". Law and Human Behavior 20 (3): 249-272. doi:10.2307/1393975. ISSN 01477307. Retrieved on 2009-02-15.