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Adults have more potential for having pleasurable fun and avoiding painful punishments than adolescents, or children, or infants. That is obviously true because adults have more options of what they are permitted to do and fewer limitations on what they are not allowed to do. An example would be personal freedom of action. An infant is confined in a crib and only allowed to roam about in the confines of his own room, or if outside only under adult supervision. A child is given more freedom of action to explore his own home and when outside gets to play with other kids and to do so even at some distance, but with trusted adults in sight of him. An adolescent can move about their city without any direct supervision and is expected to understand and follow social conventions and legal restrictions, but they are not allowed to make legally binding contracts without some adult supervision. An adult has the options of doing all the things the younger people are permitted to do and to do so without any other person supervising their every move. They are remotely supervised by the laws, but those are rarely invoked for most adults.

Similar constraints are placed on younger people in all of their activities. This is done to keep them from harming themselves and help them to find a way through the complexities of their society and grow into fully functioning adults.

All that is different for adults because they have so many options available to them that their lives become filled with anxieties over which choices to make and where to put their time, energy and resources. Their problems are compounded if they have few other role models to follow who have lived through similar experiences and the problems those experiences bring to the fore to be coped with.

The book I reviewed last month, Hillbilly Elegy, is a personal illustration of a young man who grew up in a situation where nearly all the older people he associated with had chosen poor role models themselves for their own lives. Those people had become alcoholics and various kinds of social failures. Luckily for the author he had recovered-alcoholic grandparents nearby who gave him enough adult support to find his way to a healthy adult lifestyle himself. His mother had been raised by those same people, but at that time they were abusive alcoholics, and she grew up to become a terrible mother.

Just being a parent doesn’t make a person into an adult, even if it thrusts adult-like responsibilities upon them. In small extended-family social communities, there are other relatives to provide the kids with other more mature alternatives for them to experience.

I didn’t mention the fun that adults can have but they do have the options to choose from, and if they choose wisely they can have great fun with very little pain.