Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Age in AmericaThe Colonial Era to the Present$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Corinne T. Field and Nicholas L. Syrett

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781479870011

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479870011.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 02 July 2022

“Old Enough to Live”

“Old Enough to Live”

Age, Alcohol, and Adulthood in the United States, 1970–1984

(p.237) 11 “Old Enough to Live”
Age in America

Timothy Cole

NYU Press

This chapter explains how reforms of the 1970s and 1980s redefined eighteen-to-twenty-year-olds as legal adults who can’t legally drink alcohol. In the early 1970s, state and federal governments granted eighteen-year-olds most of the rights of adults. Many states lowered their minimum legal drinking ages as well. While the new age of adulthood had widespread support, Timothy Cole contends that some parents, teachers, and politicians worried that they had lost too much authority over rebellious youth. Seizing on scattered evidence that young people were more likely than their elders to cause drunk driving accidents, legislators and reformers campaigned for a higher drinking age. Cole argues that efforts to raise the drinking age arose not from a concern with drunk driving per se but from a broader effort to control young people’s behavior and shore up parental power. In 1984, Congress approved the National Minimum Drinking Age Act (NMDA), using highway funding as a mechanism to impose a drinking age of twenty-one. As Cole concludes, this reform created a new status for “individuals who were both ‘adults’ and ‘underage.’”

Keywords:   eighteen, twenty-one, adults, adulthood, drinking age, drunk driving, parental power, National Minimum Drinking Age Act, underage, alcohol

NYU Press Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.