Is Your 18-Year-Old Really ‘Mature’? New Brain Study Has Answers

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by HealthDay.

An adolescent starts thinking like an adult right around the age of 18, according to new research.

That provides some of the first definitive evidence that executive function matures by that time.

Executive function is a set of mental skills that include the ability to plan, switch between tasks, resist tempting distractions, and focus.

For the study, researchers collected and analyzed nearly two dozen laboratory measures of executive functions in more than 10,000 people.

“When I talk with parents, a lot of them say, ‘There is no way that my 18-year-old is a fully formed adult!'” said senior author Beatriz Luna, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and authority on neurocognitive development.

“Other important behavioral factors that complement executive function, such as the ability to control one’s own emotions, can change with age. The ability to use executive function reliably improves with age and, at least in a laboratory setting, matures by 18 years of age,” Luna said in a university news release.

While many childhood milestones are mapped out, that timeline of adolescence transitioning to adulthood is less formally defined, according to the study. Individuals differ greatly. Analytical tools are limited.

Using four unique datasets, the authors collected 23 distinct measures of executive function from 10,000 participants aged 8 to 35. They tracked changes over time and whether performance across different tests fit a single trajectory.

Researchers saw a rapid burst of executive function development from age 10 to 15. That was followed by small but significant changes through mid-adolescence, ages 15 to 18. Development reached adult-level performance by ages 18 to 20.

Study findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: HealthDay

Help us reach the next generation of families

Back to Top

[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

  • About HomeWord

    HomeWord helps families succeed by creating Biblical resources that build strong marriages, confident parents, empowered kids and healthy leaders. Founded by Jim Burns, HomeWord seeks to advance the work of God in the world by educating, equipping, and encouraging parents and churches. Learn More »

  • Support Our Mission

    HomeWord is non-profit, donor supported ministry. If you would like to partner with HomeWord in our effort to help more parents and families you can make a donation. Your investment will allow us to expand this ministry by offering more resources to families and churches in need.

  • Contact Information

    • HomeWord
      PO Box 1600
      San Juan Capistrano, CA

    • Send us an email

    • 800-397-9725
      (M-F: 8:30am-5pm PST)