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In most of the world, including most of the United States, parts of the United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland, Wales), India and China, the legal adult age is 18 (historically 21) for most purposes, with some notable exceptions: According to Jewish tradition, adulthood is reached at age 13 (the minimal age of the Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah) for Jewish boys and girls; they are expected to demonstrate preparation for adulthood by learning the Torah and other Jewish practices.

The Christian Bible and Jewish scripture contain no age requirement for adulthood or marrying, which includes engaging in sexual activity.

Conversely, one may legally be an adult but possess none of the maturity and responsibility that may define an adult character.

In different cultures there are events that relate passing from being a child to becoming an adult or coming of age.

Admission of a young person to a place may be restricted because of danger for that person, concern that the place may lead the person to immoral behavior or because of the risk that the young person causes damage (for example, at an exhibition of fragile items).

According to The Disappearance of Childhood by Neil Postman, the Christian Church of the Middle Ages considered the age of accountability, when a person could be tried and even executed as an adult, to be age 7.

Legally, adulthood typically means that one has reached the age of majority - when parents lose parenting rights and responsibilities regarding the person concerned.

Depending on one's jurisdiction, the age of majority may or may not be set independently of and should not be confused with the minimum ages applicable to other activities, such as engaging in a contract, marriage, voting, having a job, serving in the military, buying/possessing firearms, driving, traveling abroad, involvement with alcoholic beverages, smoking, sexual activity, gambling, being a prostitute or a client of a prostitute, being a model or actor in pornography, running for President, etc.

There may be distinction between commercially and socially enabling.

Sometimes there is the requirement of supervision by a legal guardian, or just by an adult.

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