Age of Majority
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Age of Majority

The age of majority is the threshold of adulthood as recognized or declared in law. It is the moment when minors cease to be considered such and assume legal control over their persons, actions, and decisions, thus terminating the control and legal responsibilities of their parents or guardian over them. Most countries set the age of majority at 18, but some jurisdictions have a higher age and others lower. The word majority here refers to having greater years and being of full age as opposed to minority, the state of being a minor. The law in a given jurisdiction may not actually use the term "age of majority". The term typically refers to a collection of laws bestowing the status of adulthood. Those under the age of majority are referred to as minors and may be legally denied certain privileges such as voting, buying and drinking alcoholic beverages, buying tobacco or cannabis products, gambling, marrying, buying or owning firearms, owning property, entering into binding contracts, or getting full driving privileges.

Age of majority should not be confused with the age of maturity, age of sexual consent, marriageable age, school-leaving age, drinking age, driving age, voting age, smoking age, gambling age, etc., which each may be independent of and set at a different age from the age of majority.


Age of majority can be confused with the similar concept of the age of license,[1] which also pertains to the threshold of adulthood but in a much broader and more abstract way. As a legal term of art, "license" means "permission", and it can implicate a legally enforceable right or privilege. Thus, an age of license is an age at which one has legal permission from government to do something. The age of majority, on the other hand, is legal recognition that one has grown into an adult.[2]

Age of majority pertains solely to the acquisition of legal control over one's person, decisions and actions, and the correlative termination of the legal authority of the parents (or guardian(s), in lieu of parent(s)) over the child's person and affairs generally.

Many ages of license are correlated to the age of majority, but they are nonetheless legally distinct concepts. One need not have attained the age of majority to have permission to exercise certain rights and responsibilities. Some ages of license are actually higher than the age of majority. For example, to purchase alcoholic beverages, the age of license is 21 in all U.S. states. Another example is the voting age, which prior to the 1970s was 21 in the US, as was the age of majority in all or most states.[3] In the Republic of Ireland the age of majority is 18, but one must be over 21 years of age to stand for election to the Houses of the Oireachtas.[4] Also, in Portugal the age of majority is 18, but one must be at least 25 years of age to run for public office and 35 years of age to run for president.[5] A child who is legally emancipated by a court of competent jurisdiction automatically attains to their maturity upon the signing of the court order. Only emancipation confers the status of maturity before a person has actually reached the age of majority.

In almost all places, minors who are married are automatically emancipated. Some places also do the same for minors who are in the armed forces or who have a certain degree or diploma.[6]

The age 18 is identified as the age of adulthood in the Jewish Talmud relative to having sound judgement to make monetary decisions as a judge.[7] Here, the Talmud says that every judgment Josiah, the sixteenth king of Judah (c. 640-609) issued from the age of eight, when he was crowned, until the age of eighteen was reversed and he returned the money to the parties whom he judged liable, due to concern that in his youth he may not have judged the cases correctly. Other Jewish commentators have discussed whether age 13 or 18 is the age to make decisions in a Jewish Court.[8]

Civil law

In many countries minors can be emancipated: depending on jurisdiction, this may happen through acts such as marriage, attaining economic self-sufficiency, obtaining an educational degree or diploma, or participating in a form of military service. In the United States, all states have some form of emancipation of minors.[9]

The following list the age of majority in countries (or administrative divisions) in the order of lowest to highest:

Up to age 14

  • Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia[10] - age of majority is based on physical signs of puberty (bulugh), with age 15 as the upper limit.
  • Iran Iran[11] - 9 lunar years (female only), 15 lunar years (male only)

Age 15

Age 16

Age 17

Age 18

Age 19

Age 20

Age 21

Religious law

Religions have their own rules as to the age of maturity, when a child is regarded to be an adult, at least for ritual purposes:

  • Islam: a person having reached the age of 15 or having entered puberty before that age is considered bulugh (adult).
  • Judaism: the age of majority is 13 years for boys (bar mitzvah) and 12 years for girls (bat mitzvah) for religious purposes.[112] However, Jewish law follows the law of the land if there is a difference, such as in marriage age.
  • Christianity (only Roman Catholic Church): 18 years of age.[113]

See also


  1. ^ Amendments to existing laws have been drafted to raise majority age to 18.
  2. ^ Even though children acquire legal capacity at the age of 16, National Guidance for Child Protection generally defines a child as someone under the age of 18.[20][21]
  3. ^ Article 25. Minor and adolescent: minor is the person who has not turned eighteen. This Code refers to the adolescent as the minor who turned thirteen years of age.
  4. ^ Article 24. The age of majority shall be 18.
  5. ^ Those aged 16 or older can be emancipated upon marriage, by being approved for civil service, by graduating in college or for being economically independent
  6. ^ If minor becomes a parent or marries - a judicial act is passed with prior hearing of minors parents and getting an opinion of the Social Care centre
  7. ^ §30 Majority. An individual acquires full legal capacity upon reaching the age of majority. The age of majority is reached upon reaching eighteen years of age.Before reaching the age of majority, full legal capacity is acquired by being granted legal capacity or by entering into marriage. Legal capacity acquired by entering into marriage is not terminated upon termination or invalidation of marriage.
  8. ^ Article 388. The minor is the individual of either sex who is not yet eighteen years old.
  9. ^ Iraq's Civil Code defines the age of majority as 18; however, due to the Iraqi constitution and instability, Note 1 (above) may apply as courts choose between Shari'ah law and the Civil Code
  10. ^ Constitution of Kenya. Article 260. "Adult" means an individual who has attained the age of eighteen years, "child" means an individual who has not attained the age of eighteen years.Age of Majority Act, 1977. Section 2 Age of majority. A person shall be of full age and cease to be under any disability by reason of age on attaining the age of eighteen years.
  11. ^ (Netherlands) Or earlier upon marriage
  12. ^ (Poland) Or upon marriage which for women can happen at 16 the earliest, voting age is 18 always
  13. ^ Minors are emancipated upon marriage or in case of working on a labour agreement or being engaged in business activities.
  14. ^ Children's Act, 2005 Article 1. "child" means a person under the age of 18 years, article 17. Age of majority - A child, whether male or female, becomes a major upon reaching the age of 18 years.
  15. ^ Constitution article 12. Spaniards come legally of age at eighteen years. Civil Code article 315. Legal age begins upon turning eighteen. The date of birth shall be included in full for the calculation of legal age.
  16. ^ In the light of article 16 of the Family Code, which provides that majority is attained at the age of 21 years, it may be inferred that the status of minor is retained in Honduras until the age of 21 years. According, however, to article 36 of the Constitution of Honduras, all Hondurans over 18 years of age are citizens. This means that the quality of citizen is attained while a person is still a minor, thus involving the assumption of the status of minor adult. The latter contracts all the obligations of persons of full age and acquires the specific rights that are reserved for such persons, with a few exceptions.[108]


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