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Parent and Child

Parent-child Relationship, Children's Rights V. Parents' Rights: You Don't Own Me … Do You?

The legal relationship between a father or mother and his or her offspring.

The relationship between parent and child is of fundamental importance to U.S. society, because it preserves the safety and provides for the nurture of dependent individuals. For this reason, the parent-child relationship is given special legal consideration. Increasingly, local, state, and federal governments have become more involved in the relationship, especially when a child is abused or neglected. In addition, parental roles have shifted over time, and the law has moved with these changes. Legal rights that were once the sole province of the father are now shared with the mother, and, in general, the law seeks to treat parents equally.

The term child is used in the limited sense to indicate an individual below the age of majority. The more precise word for such an individual is minor, juvenile, or infant. The age of majority, which transforms a child legally into an adult, has traditionally been the age of 21 years. Many states, however, have reduced the age of majority to 18 years.

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