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. The age of majority does not necessarily correspond to the mental or physical maturity of an individual.
Although a person may attain the age of majority in a particular jurisdiction, they 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 the similar concept of the age of license, 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.
Age of majority pertains solely to the acquisition of the 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. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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. However, Jewish law follows the law of the land if there is a difference, such as marriage age.
^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
^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
^§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.
^Article 388. The minor is the individual of either sex who is not yet eighteen years old.
^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
^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.
^(Poland) Or upon marriage which for women can happen at 16 the earliest, voting age is 18 always
^Minors are emancipated upon marriage or in case of working on a labour agreement or being engaged in business activities.
^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.
^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.