Age of majority

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The age of majority is the threshold of adulthood as it is conceptualized (and recognized or declared) in law. It is the chronological moment when minors cease to legally be considered children and assume control over their persons, actions, and decisions, thereby terminating the legal control and legal responsibilities of their parents or guardian over and for them. Most countries set majority at 18. The word majority here refers to having greater years and being of full age; it is opposed to minority, the state of being a minor. The law in a given jurisdiction may never actually use the term "age of majority" and the term thereby refers to a collection of laws bestowing the status of adulthood. The age of majority is a legally fixed age, concept, or statutory principle, which may differ depending on the jurisdiction, and may not necessarily correspond to actual mental or physical maturity of an individual.

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

Although a person may attain the age of majority in a particular jurisdiction, he or she may still be subject to age-based restrictions regarding matters such as the right to vote or stand for elective office, act as a judge, and many others.


Age of majority can be confused with a similar concept, 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 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, the age of license to purchase alcoholic beverages is 21 in all U.S. states. Another example is the voting age, which prior to the 1970s was 21, while the age of majority was 18 in most states. 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.[3] Also, in Portugal the age of majority is 18, but one must be at least 25 years of age to run for public office.[4] A child who is legally emancipated by a court of competent jurisdiction automatically attains to their maturity upon the signing of the court order. This is distinct from the legal process by which a child might be taken into foster care and/or made a ward of the court. Foster care and court wardship do not confer maturity upon the child so separated from their parents (or guardians). Only emancipation confers the status of maturity before a person has actually reached the age of majority.

Almost all jurisdictions automatically confer emancipation (and with it, the status of majority) upon otherwise minor individuals who are married. Some do likewise for minors who are on active duty in the armed forces.[5]

Countries and subdivisions[edit]

The following list the age of majority in countries (or administrative divisions) as appropriate:

Age 8[edit]

Age 14[edit]

Age 16[edit]

Age 17[edit]

Age 18[edit]

Age 19[edit]

Age 20[edit]

Age 21[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Age is defined or interpreted by the age of maturity in Shari'ah law. Specifically, 9 lunar years for women and 15 lunar years for men, with discretion based on physical/mental maturity. [8]
  2. ^ Iraq's Civil Code defines the age of majority as 18, however, due to the Iraqi constitution and instability [note 1] may apply as courts choose between Shari'ah law and the Civil Code


In the Catholic Church, the age of majority is 18 years.[79] In Judaism, after a Bar and Bat Mitzvah at age 13, a person is considered an adult.

See also[edit]


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  79. ^ Can. 97, § 1 CIC.