Age of majority

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The age of majority is the age at which one becomes an adult legally. In most countries this is 18; however ages ranging from 15 to 21 do exist. The age of majority is a legal and moral principle, and it establishes an age at which a person is capable of giving informed consent for legal contracts with other individuals. The age of majority varies depending on jurisdiction.

Not being competent to make moral choices usually absolves minors from (adult) guilt if they commit certain crimes. Either their parents will be held responsible, as in case of theft or vandalism, or the child will simply be considered "too young to know better". However, some jurisdictions have an age of criminal responsibility below majority.

Children typically cannot enter into binding contracts, are not permitted to drive cars on public roads, join the armed forces or get married. In the United States of America, however, a parent may permit their 17-year-old child to join the armed forces. Various states in the U.S. differ as to what age a minor must be before their parents can permit them to marry.

When an adult has sexual relations with a minor, or even when two minors have sexual relations in some jurisdictions, this is considered statutory rape because the child is not old enough to make such a weighty decision as to enter into a sexual relationship. The age of consent for this decision varies and is not necessarily the same as the age of majority. For example in France the age of majority is 18 but the age of consent is 15.

The age to legally buy alcohol in the United States is 21 and the age to buy tobacco products in the United States is 18. The age to buy both alcohol and tobacco products in Canada is 19, with the exception of Quebec, Manitoba, and Alberta, where the corresponding age is 18.

Age of majority in various countries/areas
France18
United Kingdom England18
Wales18
Scotland16
Northern Ireland18
Isle of Man16
United States of America Indiana 18
Wisconsin 18
Mississippi 21
American Samoa 18[1]

References

  1. American Samoa Code Annotated
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