Age of majority

Age of majority

What does Age of majority mean in American Law?

The definition of Age of majority in the law of the United States, as defined by the lexicographer Arthur Leff in his legal dictionary is:

The chronological age at which a person ceases to be a “minor,” and, subject to whatever legal disabilities minority carries with it (e.g., inability to vote, to drink intoxicating liquors, to drive on the public highways, to make valid contracts, conveyances and wills) while benefiting from whatever rights minority brings (e.g., to be supported by one’s parents).

Especially since the 1971 enactment of the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the Constitution, making eighteen the voting age in Federal and state elections, eighteen has become the age of majority for most other purposes too. The notable exceptions are automobile driving, marrying, and taking part in lawful sexual relations (see age of consent), where the requisite age tends to be lower, and drinking intoxicating liquors, where it often remains higher.

The use of “age of majority” to determine legal rights and liabilities is a particularly clear example of a legal system’s occasionally overwhelming need for certainty and easy administration, even at the cost of some substantial injury to accuracy and particularized justice. The age-of-majority concept is obviously designed to protect persons not yet mature enough to fend for themselves, i.e., to protect themselves against harmful experiences and relationships. But it is obvious that nothing magical happens on a person’s eighteenth birthday; some people who are seventeen, or sixteen or even younger are in fact perfectly capable of negotiating canny contracts, even sexual ones, while some over eighteen (or over forty for that matter) are not. Hence the law’s choice of a particular age as a surrogate for competence, while most likely roughly separating those needing extra care from those not, is nonetheless both overinclusive and underinclusive, i.e., it gives special status to some people who don’t need it, and fails to give it to some who do. But the cost-in transactional uncertainty and of factual determination-of not using this chronological-age bright-line surrogate for factual competency, but instead letting the matter turn on the actual ability of the particular person to care for his own interests, is considered so great

as to justify this relatively crude age-of-majority approach.

Meaning of Age of Majority


See Also

  • Age
  • Meaning of Age of Majority


    See Also

  • Age Of Capacity
  • Child Support
  • Infants
  • Parent
  • Child
  • Hierarchical Display of Age of majority

    Law > Civil law > Civil law > Legal status > Legal capacity
    Law > Criminal law > Criminal liability

    Meaning of Age of majority

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    Law > Civil law > Civil law > Legal status > Legal capacity > Age of majority
    Law > Criminal law > Criminal liability > Age of majority

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