the child’s rights can be limited. This is the unequal treatment of the
child’s rights, which leads to the next proposition.
B. Unequal thesis: parental authority over their children’s
There are certain activities adults may freely participate in that
would neither be in the child’s “best interest,” nor appropriate for
someone under the age of eighteen. While it would be
unconstitutional to prohibit an adult from participating in these
activities, children can be prohibited from participating in them by
the executive and judicial branches of government.
The Unequal Treatment Thesis: Children – at least at
certain ages – can be legitimately prevented from
doing certain things that it would be illegitimate to
prevent adults from doing. Most of us accept this
thesis. Well-known and plausible examples of things
we allow adults but not children to do are voting,
driving cars, owning firearms, signing contracts, and
Even though children may have rights, the ability to exercise
those rights is legitimately prevented until either of two occurrences.
As in Bellotti, the child must first be able to demonstrate that he or
she is mature enough to exercise those rights;132 and second, the child
must be able to exercise those rights upon reaching the appropriate
age. The legislature has limited the exercise of certain rights until
reaching what has been deemed a permissible age, for example, to
vote or enter into a contract.133 It is permissible to limit a person’s
right to enter into a binding contract until he or she reaches the age of
eighteen. If a child is emancipated before the age of eighteen,
however, a court has determined that the child has demonstrated the
maturity to exercise the right to contract. “A person can have a role-
131 Brennan & Noggle, supra note 3, at 3.
132 Bellotti, 443 U.S. at 633-34.
133 KAN. STAT. ANN. § 38-101 (West 2013) (stating that eighteen is age of majority,
except that persons sixteen or over who are or have been married are considered to
be of age for all matters relating to contract, property rights, liabilities, and capacity
to sue and be sued); Brennan & Noggle, supra note 3, at 7.