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 children 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 majority at 18. 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.

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 each may be independent of, and sometimes set at a different age from the age of majority.

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 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. 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.[5]

Countries and subdivisions

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.[6]

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

Age 15

Age 16

Age 17

Age 18

Age 19

Age 20

Age 21


In the Bible, age 20 is the point at which people were considered fully responsible for their actions, able to join the military, had to pay taxes, etc.[88] In the Roman Catholic Church, the age of majority is 18 years.[89] In Judaism, at age 13 for males (Bar Mitzvah), or at age 12 for females (Bat Mitzvah), a person is considered an adult.[90]

See also


  1. Amendments to existing laws have been drafted to raise majority age to 18.
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. (Poland) Or upon marriage which for women can happen at 16 the earliest, voting age is 18 always
  6. Minors are emancipated upon marriage or in case of working on a labour agreement or being engaged in business activities.


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