I Was a Teen Bride – Scout Apolline
The drinking age in America is twenty-one. It was once set at eighteen but was raised to promote responsible and safe drinking. The shift to an older drinking age reduced alcohol related accidents considerably. If eighteen year olds are not responsible enough to drink, why should we think they are responsible enough to enter into a marriage?
In fact, science says they are not. At eighteen, we are only about halfway through the process of puberty. Our brains don’t fully develop to adult level maturity until about twenty-five. It could be argued that alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, military enlistment, and marriage should all be off limits until that time. Rethinking how we view age and maturity could prevent many bad decisions. What if we could lower the rates of high school dropouts, unemployment, abuse, and childhood poverty, while at the same time improving the quality of our military, economy, and educated workforce, simply by recognizing that an eighteen year old is not a fully realized adult?
The young are particularly vulnerable though, because they are more likely to have entered into the marriage for all the wrong reasons.
I am one of three sisters. My oldest sister and I both moved out of our parents house before reaching eighteen years old, and both of us because of a romantic relationship. At the time, that felt like an achievement. Our middle sister stayed until twenty-five. She worked, had a boyfriend, and finished school. By the time she left home, she was well prepared to enter the adult world and as far as I’m aware, has no major regrets. My oldest sister and I struggled more to get to where we are now, and we made many more mistakes along the way. I can’t speak for her, but I do think she’d agree that we both have regrets.
The three of us are a small sample of much bigger problems. And these problems are universal. Culture and ideology may vary widely, but the biology of our minds and our rate of maturation is pretty consistent.
We need to stop pushing our children to grow up faster than biology will allow. Legally permitting a teenager to get married is comparable to letting a twelve year old have an online dating profile. They are too young and immature for the situation; they don’t fully realize what risks lurk behind every decision they make. It’s up to the adults to protect the children, even if the children think we’re wrong, even if they hate us for a while. Because if we lowered the rates of divorce, abuse, teen-pregnancies and so on, someday they will thank us. Quality of life would improve in many ways, and that is always something to be grateful for. Science, statistics, and experience are on our side. When it comes to marriage, we have the numbers, they’ve been talked about, we just haven’t done much with them. That needs to change. I believe in marriage and in marriage equality, but only once the two individuals entering into the marriage are mature enough to responsibly make that commitment. Our current standards are outdated and don’t take our present knowledge into account. The legal age to marry shouldn’t even be eighteen, it should be twenty-one. As my parents once told me (and oh boy, how I wish I’d listened), if they truly love you, they will wait, and they will still love you when you reach the marriage age.