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Every society has a specific family structure. In Western society, the children are protected physically and emotionally from birth until “maturity”, which is variously defined, but generally until the late teen years or slightly beyond. At that point the individual is considered fully mentally developed (all the parts of the cognitive process are there), physically capable of surviving on his or her own, and capable of sharing their society’s benefits and responsibilities. In most cases, however, this is the first experience with fully autonomous living, with all the fears and apprehensions of any first-time experience. Sociologically, these first-time experiences include maintaining a livelihood, making decisions about extending the family through marriage and/or child-rearing, and providing oneself with a dwelling place independent of the parents (“leaving the nest”). The emotional strain caused by the need to make these sociological decisions, together with the biological and psychological desire to become independent, can manifest in a variety of ways, often appearing contradictory – disdain for authority, over-confident exploration of new lifestyles, excessive consumption, etc. The social success of this period will depend a lot on one’s parental guidance during youth.
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