How Did 18 Become the Legal Age

How Did 18 Become the Legal Age

Americans` early age-related concerns revolved around when a person should be legally allowed to marry, contract, vote, and testify in court, as well as when they became guilty of crimes. The use of age to set these limits was an explicit rejection of the British system, in which inherited status governed privileges. The Americans wanted to build a system governed by experience and informed consent, with seemingly neutral markers for civil rights. While not everyone can acquire a country or an education, theoretically, everyone could reach the age of 18 or 21. What triggered a change and why 18? As for the number, it seems to have been chosen at least in part, because that is the age at which most people graduated from high school, and the majority of people in the United States attended such a public institution when the change was made. The reason the age changed in the first place is the reason why the massive improvements in public education since the number 21 was initially set, the realization that 18-year-olds could enter into legally binding contracts, get married, have children and even be forcibly recruited. It should also be noted that this is only an extremely recent phenomenon, to which the age of majority has been very credible in many legal scenarios. For example, teenagers could and always have been members of the British Parliament, and even exceptionally young children (now of kindergarten age) could sign legally binding contracts, such as contracts that required them to work for an individual or company into adulthood. Children could also be executed or have other extremely serious consequences for the crimes they have committed. But this advance in scientific understanding has done little to eliminate the hodgepodge of state laws granting rights, privileges, and responsibilities between the ages of 8 and 21. For example, 33 States currently do not have a minimum age for criminal responsibility. In other words, in most states, a 5-year-old or 10-year-old (or even a baby) could be charged as an adult if a judge so wishes. For a federal felony, the legal age of criminal responsibility is 11.

While in many states a 12-year-old cannot legally be left home alone, such a child could be charged with a federal felony as an adult. But there isn`t much clarity in state laws. In Alaska, teens can marry at age 14 with a court order. Only a handful of states allow alcohol consumption before the age of 21 in strict circumstances, such as in the presence of a parent or guardian. For example, in Washington State, it is legal for a person to have consensual sex at age 11, as long as the person they are having sex with is at least 11 years old and no more than two years older than them. Even if it is only one day outside these two years, it is illegal and the elderly person faces exceptionally harsh penalties, in some cases up to life imprisonment. Minors between the ages of 12 and 13 are legally allowed to have consensual sexual relations with someone under the age of three years older, and young people between the ages of 14 and 15 with someone under the age of four years older. It is not entirely clear why this was the era of British common law. One claim is that it goes back to the time when squires could become knights.

However, if this is true, it seems to be a consequence rather than a derivation, as this was essentially at the time when minors were considered “adults”. In addition, there are certainly many well-known exceptions in which individuals were considered knights before this age. It seems more likely that this was simply the age at which it was generally observed that people began to reach sufficient mental maturity to no longer require direct supervision. According to the Swedish Wikipedia (unsourced), legal adulthood in Sweden was 21 until 1969, when it was lowered to 20 and further lowered to 18 in 1974. Apparently, just because a person has become sexually mature doesn`t mean they`re necessarily mentally mature enough to be considered an adult, most cultures today choose a higher age of majority. Many bachelor`s age correlates with the age of majority, but they are still legally different concepts. You do not need to be of legal age to be authorized to exercise certain rights and obligations. Some bachelor`s degree ages are actually higher than the age of majority.

For example, to purchase alcoholic beverages, the licensing age is 21 in all U.S. states. Another example is the voting age, which was 21 before the 1970s in the United States, as well as the age of majority in all or most states. [3] In the Republic of Ireland, the age of majority is 18, but you must be over 21 to stand for election to the Houses of the Oireachta. [4] Also in Portugal, the age of majority is 18, but you must be at least 25 to run for public office and 35 to run for president. [5] A child legally emancipated by a competent court automatically reaches maturity as soon as the court order is signed. Only emancipation confers the status of maturity before a person is really of age. It`s a question Apryl Alexander, a professor of psychology at the University of Denver, often receives from his graduate students, and one that has become even more difficult with growing research into adolescent brain development. On the other hand, proponents of these types of laws and maintaining the age of consent cite relatively weak recognition that adolescents often engage in consensual intimate activities with other youth, whether legal or not in their respective regions.

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