Date of Award

Spring 2024

Degree Type

Capstone - Open Access

First Advisor

Jonathan P. Kessler


The age of majority is when a person is considered legally responsible and culpable for their actions (Cox et al., 2022). Since the advent of the legal system, there seems to be no consensus regarding the ideal age of majority. This is demonstrated by the age varying from state to state and nationally. In the United States, the age of majority has been as low as 14 years old. Until the 19th century, 14-year-olds could be processed in the adult justice system as well as sentenced to the death penalty. As of 2019, 38 of the 50 states, including North Carolina, Illinois, and Connecticut, have raised their age of majority to 17 or 18 years of age (Tedeschi & Ford, 2015; Citizens for Juvenile Justice, 2024). As of 2020, Vermont raised the age of majority to 20 years old (Fitzgerald, 2023). This systematic literature review analyzes the potential benefits of increasing the age of majority to 22. By analyzing the history of the United States' view of juveniles and the juvenile justice system, the benefits of using the juvenile justice system for more youthful offenders are evident. These benefits include a decrease of stigma, a decrease in long-term costs, rehabilitation, and public safety. Through examination, the differences between juveniles and adults are evident and play a significant role in identifying the benefits of raising the age of majority. These differences are seen in brain, social, and maturity development including neurotransmitter development, understanding of consequences, development of cognitive control, susceptibility and influenceability of peers, and propensity to engage in at-risk behavior. Through this investigation, it was noted that other Massachusetts agencies recognize older teens as a population in need of continued support. Many Massachusetts providers serve these youth through the transition into early adulthood. These include insurance and healthcare providers, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Department of Mental Health, and the Department of Disability 2 Services (Citizens for Juvenile Justice, 2024). Many of these services are eligible for youth ages 21 to 26. It is unclear why the age of majority within one or two departments was not consistent across all social service programming. This systematic literature review utilizes information and data to explore the benefits of increasing the age of the majority from 18 years old to 22 years old in Massachusetts