Majority age: Should the age be raised to 21?


Jennifer Boch, Staff Writer

To most college students, the question above is a phrase of the past, reminiscent of high school forms and permission slips. Being in college brings independence, new friends, different experiences and unfortunately a lot of paperwork.

However, because most college students are over the age of 18, they do not need a parent’s signature. This is due to the age of majority.

The age of majority is a legal term that acknowledges a person’s responsibility for the majority of their actions. In other words, you become a legal adult with full legal rights and responsibilities. Upon reaching this age you do not need your parent’s consent for anything you decide to do.

You can legally move out of your parent’s house or sign up for as many sweepstakes as you desire.  Most of the age of majority’s implications deal with how a person is handled in the legal system.

Crimes can now receive harsher punishments compared to the previous juvenile system treatment.

Most states recognize the age of 18 as the age of majority. This is likely due to the other important milestones that come with turning 18. These consist of privileges such as receiving the right to vote under the 26th amendment, or having to register for the draft.

However, some policymakers and researchers believe the age of majority should be raised. Some states have been advocating “raise-the-age” policies that increase the age of majority to 21. This idea comes from several psychological and legal perspectives.

Recent research has shown that the human brain fully develops around the age of 25. In an interview with the National Public Radio in 2011, a leading neuroscientist, Sandra Aamodt, explains that the prefrontal cortex, “the part of the brain that helps you to inhibit impulses and to plan and organize your behavior to reach a goal,” is not fully developed until the age of 25.

Aamodt states that maturity does seem to correlate with beneficial life experiences, which many individuals can lack at age 18. Overall, a younger, less mature mind does not have fully developed cognitive reasoning that enables critical thinking and understanding.

Thus, some policymakers theorize that raising the age of majority will be beneficial to younger criminal offenders, who as previously explained, still do not have proper cognitive reasoning to help fully understand their actions. Once they reach the age of majority, young adults no longer receive rehabilitation services that are helpful in developing these skills.

Therefore, a higher age of majority would lead to a decrease in repeated offenses. However, there little to no evidence that this would be the case. A study published in February of 2017 from the American Society of Criminology, looked at the effects of Connecticut raising its age of majority from 16 to 17 in 2010, and 17 to 18 in 2012.

The study showed that there was no noticeable change in juvenile offending or reoffending due to the legal age changes. However, the change still could be helpful as Aamodt notes in her interview, “Obviously some 18-year-olds are competent to go out into the world and handle things by themselves and some of them aren’t. It would be nice if we had a little more flexibility to distinguish the two in the legal system.”

The age of majority also has some significant connections to the foster care system. Currently, the foster care system supports young adults until they “age out” at 18 (in most states). Many individuals are left with little or no guidance after leaving the foster system and one in five will become completely homeless (Center of Public Justice).

If the age of majority was raised, then perhaps these young adults would be able to have more of the support they need to secure a promising future.

All in all, I think the age of majority should be left at age 18 but some reforms should be made to the foster care and prison systems, that allows for better life transitions and rehabilitation.

Although people mature at different rates, maturing is a constant and consistent experience in young adults’ lives. Receiving the rights and independence that come with the age of majority is a part of this process.

Raising the age to 21 would make young adults lives more constricted, as we would still need our parents’ consent for roughly three years after high school graduation. The age of majority throws us out into the real world and it gives us the wheel that steers our fate.

We decide what to do with our lives, not our parents during the transformative years of 18 and 21. These years are truly precious; its a time to come into your own. It may be terrifying and difficult for young adults and their developing minds, but in the end, the only way our minds will truly grow is if we are the ones to think critically about our futures and decide our path for ourselves.