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Reader Response Requested: How Would You Define Maturity?

In recent posts about gender maturity, I thought of maturity as the same definition a politician once used to describe porn, which I’ll paraphrase now: “I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it.” I figured everyone basically shared the same idea of what maturity was.

Several people made a point, which I agree is valid, that we should have a common agreement about the definition of maturity. And others have mentioned studies that I need to read. So I decided, before continuing that series, let’s come up with a common agreed definition of maturity. Also, any relevant studies or evidence, feel free to provide.

I will put the most popular choices into a poll that can be voted on. Then I’ll proceed with the series.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines mature as:

Having reached an advanced stage of mental or emotional development characteristic of an adult.

That still doesn’t tell us much though, so let’s see if we can refine that or go into an altogether different direction.

29 Responses to “Reader Response Requested: How Would You Define Maturity?”

  1. I´ll take a shot. Maturity is the capacity to be self aware of your own actions, internal mental and emotional processes, wants and goals, and the accepting of your own responsibility over your outcomes, and control over your own reactions. The maturity is sort of a delay space that happens between the event and the response, and is filled with skill over oneself. A mature person is “responsible” of themselves.

    In contrast, an immature person is unaware of their own processes and have take little responsibility over their own outcomes and there’s no delay or reasoning or space or skills between an event and their reaction. For them, emotions, mental states, stuff, just happens, and just because, and are inevitable – they are powerless to themselves, like kids, and everyone else but themselves is expected to fix things, when things go sour.

  2. I´ll add that maturity involves long term planning and vision and delay of gratification, and a dissociation from the self from the self of other people and issues (that space) – when needed.

    While immaturity only has short term and immediate gratification, and engulfment (lack of dissociation) with other people and events, so everything is personal and everything is now.

  3. When you finally realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you, and the earlier the better.

  4. I think maturity has to do more with competency than it does awareness or consideration, although competency may include both of those things. For example, an animal in nature that is the adult, evolutionarily derived form of that animal, we call it mature. That animal has all of the tools of its body and the behaviors that make that animal what it is and what that animal does. The bird is lightweight and monogamous, because it flies and nurtures its young that way. The wolf has teeth and sticks with its pack, because the pack hunts together and more successfully than alone. All versions of these animals that are incapable of behaving like those animals are immature, relative to the most functional and evolutionarily successful versions of the animal.

    Consider the image of the most immature and juvenile teenage boy you can think of. Druggie, flunks out of school, hangs out with other rotten kids who do nothing but screw around and achieve nothing of personal or social value. The boy is literally incapable of providing for anyone or taking control of his own life. He is immature because he doesn’t utilize the tools that his body and mind give him to become a man. He will not exercise self-control and discipline in order to make himself stronger or smarter, or to prevent himself from hurting others. He will not use his body to work, or his mind to create and solve problems. Maturity is whenever the FORM of the individual serves his FUNCTION, his muscles for protection, his imagination for creation, his discipline for his goals, his mind for discernment, his habits for his lifestyle etc etc. The man who is fully mature is completely capable of what it is that he does as a man. This may vary from man to man, but when you meet a mature man you know he doesn’t fumble around for anything because he’s just so sure of himself. He is who he is, and he does what he does, and he knows what he does, and how he does it, and that he can do it.

    I’m not even going to pretend that I know what a mature woman does, because I’m still not sure what the function of women is in society. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a healthy mature woman in my life. All I’ll say is that its unfair to compare a man’s maturity to a woman’s, because they usually have different roles. They do things that are supposed to support men and the people around them somehow. I feel as if they are like a socialization medium, and they maintain the homeostasis of a community but Idk. All I know is that its apples and oranges, and I’m not an orange.

    But anyway, my point is that maturity is competency. The ability to both be as you are and do what you naturally do as some iteration of a human being, without some defect or psychological barrier. They say that growing up is about finding yourself, and while I don’t think that’s the most accurate way of putting it, I do think its true that you do find the unique way that you function with yourself and with the world around you. And that is the process of growing up.

  5. I consider maturity the ability to consider realities outside your own immediate reality. To learn from events of the past; plan for events of the future; consider that the reality of other people differs from your own and that other people’s realities are important too; and take an interest in or try to understand concepts or issues in the wider world which on the face of it don’t directly affect you personally. It’s widely reported that men have greater spatial abilities than women. In my opinion this gender difference also extends to personality and is more than just about “men are better at parking a car than women”. Women seem to live in the present more than men. Women seem to be less interested in events of the past (women care a lot more about new fashions, things that are ‘now’). And yet there is much which we can learn from the past, and much we can benefit by preparing for the future. Men seem better at longer term thinking and planning for the future and delayed gratification, whereas women seem more to ‘live in the moment’. A higher percentage of women seem uninterested in news, politics, current affairs, science, economics, geography, or any intellectual matters when compared to men in my opinion. It’s like these things are not directly of use or importance to the woman right there and then, so they may as well not exist. I see women walking down the street plugged into their ipods with their arms crossed, coldly oblivious to everyone and everything around them. To me it’s like the demeanour of the woman gives off the vibe that none of these things are important or useful to her so they as good as don’t exist. Whereas men, while supposedly worse at ‘multi-tasking’, can walk down the street listening to music and yet still take an active interest in the people walking past them and in their surroundings, despite the fact that these things may not be directly of use or relevance to them right there and then. Women usually put themselves and their needs first. Whereas men, while frequently tarnished with the reputation of being the selfish or un-caring sex, actually are quite the opposite, and are very secure in who they are and actively go out of their way to put others first quite often. So maturity is about getting outside of your head and stopping only thinking about you, yourself, your needs, and your present location in time and space. Adult men are much better at doing this than are women and children or adolescents, and that is why men have traditionally run the world. Whether this was fair is another issue entirely. Just my thoughts.

  6. 1 ability to see other peoples point of view
    2 compassionate and caring
    3 displays courage
    4 complete absence of hate and rarely experiences anger

  7. Don’t think it’s possible to precisely define. Maturity means you’re more fully developed, and because of that development you’ve acquired a bunch of positive traits, in contrast to the more negative ones you had when you were less developed.

    But IMO trying to define what those positive traits are is a quagmire. In theory you could take all kinds of them and say, “Oh yeah, that’s an aspect of maturity” Different people will give you different lists of them, and it probably depends on culture and context.

  8. Kevin, yes it depends on culture and context. I’m not claiming we can get a perfect definition, I’m just aiming for “good enough.”

  9. I think it starts with the realization that everything is interconnected and you really can’t enrich yourself at another person’s expense. Basically, it’s realizing that being a selfish POS only works for children and you’d be better off if you stop doing it, not because of some retarded moral code, but because being an adult really does work out better for everyone.

  10. maturity is the natural difference gap between the child and it’s caretaker. the child lives in the moment and has strong needs. the caretaker lives in the long term but attends immediate needs as they fit, taking care of the child and taking care of themselves

    the traits that conform the child define immaturity, the traits that define a (good) caretaker define maturity

    the immature child lives in a small world where they are all there is. the good caretaker lives in a multi layered world that shuffles long and immediate needs, multiple selves (their own, the child, the tribe) and shuffles all these dynamics by being in top of them

    if the caretaker acts as a child ( small world, self centered, immediate needs that other need to take care about ) they are not mature yet

  11. I’m writing this on my phone so I can’t scroll through all the old comments. Have we discussed “accountability” and anything involving “duties” or “responsibilities” yet?

  12. maturity = self sufficiency + autonomy

  13. Simply put, mature people have a greater understanding of future consequences (note: they are not always future-orientated individuals however). They realise that numerous actions which are easy and/or pleasurable to do in the moment (e.g. expressing negative emotions like anger on those around them) are fruitless, often even counterproductive to their goals. This is because they have excellent self-control, which leads to emotional stability and a calm, peaceful nature. Their knowledge of the outcome of their actions also leads them to be extremely prudent and wise.

    In contrast, an immature individual is impulsive and only thinks of present desires. They clamour for attention, often achieving it at a personal, social or health cost. They must win an argument, but this damages the closeness of a relationship over the long-term. Inevitably all immature individuals lead themselves into a spiral of self-destruction because they fail to look forward, a term I believe you referred to as ‘tactical hell’.

    Following this definition, it is clear to see why women tend to not be as mature as men. In general they do not show the foresight, self-control, prudence, moral fairness, wisdom or emotional stability necessary for maturity. But this is because femininity is aligned with impulsivity, emotional instability and even petty judgements whilst men are the complete opposite.

    Just as a man must tame his present desires, he must tame a woman because the most feminine women tend to be so fickle. Conversely, you can see any business woman who has taken on masculine qualities in the workplace tends to show more self-control, foresight and control over their emotions.

  14. T: “Have we discussed “accountability” and anything involving “duties” or “responsibilities” yet?”

    These are the key factors for maturity. Not being helpless or dependent on someone or something else, like a child. This is why men are more mature than women. Women (and feminists) talk about their ‘rights’ rather than their responsibilities. Talking about rights, entitlements, what they deserve, what they should get, how hard done by they are, how it’s someone else’s fault they aren’t happy (men, the government, the ‘patriarchy’, society) etc. Men just deal with stuff and accept responsibility for where they are in life rather than blaming others or acting like a helpless victim. If a man’s life sucks, he is more willing to own up to the poor choices he made, and take responsibilty for his own actions, even if it means being ridiculed by others. Women and children tend to be less mature in that regard.

  15. This is just a thought, but I wonder how many readers have already made up their mind about the “What sex is more mature?” question and are subtly adjusting their proposed definitions to so it supports the side they’ve already picked?

  16. I’m sure some people are doing that, but I trust we can weed out any bias and agree to a somewhat neutral definition nonetheless.

  17. Maturity is when other people rely on you, rather than you relying on other people.

  18. IMO

    maturity = knowing WHEN & HOW to open the mouth
    knowing WHEN & HOW to take action

  19. The most abstract and detached definition of maturity, I think, is the level of maturity you’re at is how well you’ve learned, adapted, and developed to whatever system/environment your maturity is based rated on.
    It’s like the wikipedia definition -
    “In psychology, maturity is the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner. This response is generally learned rather than instinctive, and is not determined by one’s age.”
    A child is physically more mature when they’ve developed the physical ability to walk, to control their body enough to no need to wear a diaper, and to speak – as being able to speak gives them far more control over the world around them than when all they can do is cry and point.
    Emotionally, a child is more mature when they can learn to control their emotions in an effective manner. This doesn’t mean at all that they shouldn’t have emotions – just that they don’t start crying when they drop something, and they ask someone to get it instead (or learn to not drop it in the first place). They’re more mature when they develop they want to go somewhere, and they develop the ability to patiently wait for people to put their coats on rather than getting upset that they aren’t leaving already.
    The problem with trying to judge maturity in adults is that it’s so completely based on the environment that they’re in. If you get into physical fights – is that immature, or you in an environment where it’s necessary to do to remind people that they if they mess with you they’re going to get hurt (and you’d get messed with much, much more if you weren’t standing up for yourself)? If you lose control of your emotions, is that immature, or are you in an environment where that’s the only time you’re really respected and listened to? If you hold a grudge *forever*, and never let it go, are you immature – or are you in a system where that’s the only thing that’s respected? If you do the opposite, and let grudges go easily, are you more mature, or if people constantly take advantage of you because of it are you immature not having adapted to the system you’re in?
    If you gossip about people when they’re not around, is that immature, or are you gaining important and necessary knowledge of the social situation around you that you could get no other way? If you almost never directly confront people, is it that you’re immature, or that you’re in a group where direct confrontation will most likely cause you to be exluded from the entire group in the future?

  20. What’s with all this unverified, opinion-based hating on women? Are you really going to talk about 50% of the human population (women) and assert that they are all immature, self-absorbed hedonists? And that the other 50% (men), are all considerate masters of their mind and body?
    ‘Women usually put themselves and their needs first. Whereas men, while frequently tarnished with the reputation of being the selfish or un-caring sex, actually are quite the opposite, and are very secure in who they are and actively go out of their way to put others first quite often.’
    Really? You don’t think there’s significantly more diversity within rather than between the genders? And there’s no mention of the potential societal factors that have played a role in women’s development, values, and the associated problems with them. Any woman who has a traditional feminine perspective and can’t relate to the masculine perspective will have personality problems. Similarly, any man who has a traditional masculine perspective and can’t relate to the feminine perspective will have personality problems. For such understanding, mature men, some commenters seem unable to consider a different life perspective. Even if men on average are slightly more mature than women, which is definitely possible, it doesn’t mean all men are more mature than all women. You’re still going to have a lot of very mature women and a lot of very immature men. It’s like a hillbilly white person looking down on a black Harvard professor for his ethnicity because white people are on average slightly more intelligent than black people, without realizing the social pressures that cause the situation, or that because he is in the lower percentile of intelligence within his ethnic group there are likely many members of minority groups who are significantly more intelligent than him.

    And now that society is more accepting and even advocates women to take a more ‘masculine’ perspective, we’re seeing women’s performance in many areas change. Gender identity isn’t some static concept, it’s an evolving social construct. And at the moment women the newest generation of women may be recovering from some of our previous shortcomings.
    Note: I do believe the education system doesn’t currently cater to men’s learning style and that could be why men are starting to lag behind. But my main point is that you can’t judge women as a group by their lower 50% members (in terms of intelligence and maturity), and judge men by their upper 50% . There are dumb/immature men, and there are smart/mature women. Some of you sound pretty bitter towards women, but it may have to do with the part of our demographic that you’ve been exposed to (or exposing yourself to).

  21. Addition: I also think most women are immature, but it’s because I believe most -people- are immature. So if 85% of men are immature, maybe 87% of women are immature. Has anyone worked in a position where they were exposed to the general public? In high school and college I worked in the service industry, and most people kind of suck. Not that they are bad people, just sort of unintelligent, boring robots trying to fulfill some societal prescription of what they should be and strive for in life. And, if 5% of men are mature and awesome, maybe like 4% of women are.

    I’m not trying to say there isn’t a difference, I just think it’s being overstated.

  22. Last addition: I just read the post that this post was based on. And I do want to mention that I agree with what was said. I think the popular portrayal of women as the more mature group is wrong. I don’t think the answer is to point out how much more mature men are than women, though, or to pretend that all women (100%) are incredibly immature.

  23. I think it’s important not to get confused and mingled with physical maturity, a psychological term that means the body is at the least potentially able to do a certain thing. I think it should be looked at in the context of social dynamics.

    Maturity is about >> understanding << the implications of ones own actions and subsequent consequences, and high interpersonal awareness (aka non egotistical view). I don't think it should be related to responsibility, as one can be mature and yet immoral. Though admittedly one has to be aware of whether what they do is moral or not, I find it's a third associated variable that doesn't get down to the key, independent nature of maturity.

  24. I would take a virtue ethics approach:

    Let’s take the virtue of Honesty for example.
    Honesty does not mean, to Aristotle, simply “telling the truth” or “not cheating” (etc). It can mean that, but in many situations in life it has to be weighed against other virtues. e.g. a person’s new hair color isn’t flattering but you know they can’t change it now so you tell them it’s good.
    Here you’re not “telling the truth” because you judge in this situation the virtue of Kindness takes precedence over the virtue of Honesty. (And of course there are situations where honesty takes precedence over kindness – what we call “brutal honesty.”)

    A mature person has a sense of how to balance virtues. There are countless character traits we could nominate as virtues – honesty, kindness, generosity, prudence, courage, assertiveness, decisiveness, self-awareness, social adroitness, intellectual honesty – many many more.

    By “balance the virtues” here I mean two mostly separate things:
    1) which virtues take precedence in a given situation.
    2) balancing a virtue as a disposition between two vices – e.g. decisiveness exists between indecisiveness and caprice. But even this is situational. Spontaneity itself might be a virtue and becomes a positive form of “caprice.”

    This capacity to weigh virtues reliably and habitually Aristotle called “practical wisdom” (or ‘phronesis’). I would say Maturity is another name for practical wisdom.

  25. Maturity requires ability to function in the face of ambiguity.
    Maturity is ability to discern dissonance between objective reality (the way the world actually is) and perceived reality (the world is just/unjust); and ability to hold these (and other mutually contradicting) ideas as valid simultaneously.
    Immaturity is seeing everything as black & white, clearly defined, as opposed to infinite gradation of grays.

  26. Maturity is the self-awareness to understand your emotions and goals, and the self-efficacy to communicate your perception and achieve your goals, in a manner that is in accordance with your values and beliefs.

  27. Maybe I’m late to this party, but I’ll throw in my two cents.

    Maturity is the ability to effectively think in the long term and control one’s impulses under pressure.

    Take, for example, a mature and an immature man confronted by a drunken fratboy intent on starting a fight (pressure). The immature man may overcompensate and get right back in his face, trying to be the bigger, tougher man (poor impulse control). He likely gets into a fight and gets in legal trouble (poor long term planning). He was unable to think effectively. Or perhaps he shrieks and flees, failing to control his flight impulse and lowering his social status among his male friends. Meanwhile, the mature man controls himself – he quickly assesses the situation, realizes that the threat is just some douchebag puffing out his chest and not a real predator, prepares for a physical confrontation while attempting to defuse it (say, putting his hands up in surrender, conveniently getting his guard up at the same time) and is willing to take the blow to his ego (“Easy dude, you win, I would get wrecked fighting you”) in order to deflate the fratboy and end the threat for everyone with no bloodshed.

    For a woman in the same situation, the immature response could be to get in his face (convinced of her own female inviolability) or hide behind her boyfriend while trying to get him to fight instead. You get the idea.

  28. Maturity is accepting death. Living with the knowledge that one is a finite being with boundaries & limitations. It is accepting the paradoxes of life – to be symbolic & to be an animal. To have the desire to individuate & belong at the same time. It means submitting yourself to a higher power & living through that higher power.

  29. A mature person is the one who owns himself and is deliberate about making his choices, rather than having circumstances and emotions decide for them. They look at how to FIX rather than who to BLAME. They can go without an external praise or punishment because they know what they did and how well they did it. They make plans and carry them out.

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