In the U.S., a person under the age of 18 years retains few rights under the law. As far as the court and the law are concerned, such teens are under the guidance and legal control of their parents or guardians. For 14-year-olds this legal fact tends dominate a number of issues that guide and affect the teen’s life, whether he likes it or not. It is only when the teen becomes a ward of the state (when the parents can no longer take care of the teen or the government steps in) that the teen’s legal rights become even more restricted.
Status of a Minor
A 14-year-old person falls into the category of a minor, similar to a younger child and regardless of whether the teen may be very mature for her age. Under the law a minor retains no legal right to contract, vote, make legal decisions for herself, or in many jurisdictions hold a job (allowed in light-duty restricted instances). For a variety of reasons, including child labor laws, state and federal statutes are written to protect children by placing adults in charge of their lives. Such adults can be parents, law enforcement, teachers, guardians, and the government.
Because children and teens through the beginning of the 20th century were employed in industrial functions as a result of their smaller size and dexterity, child labor laws came into being to prevent such abuse. Today, 14-year-olds live at the edge of employment eligibility with restricted rules. These restrictions keep such employees limited to part-time status (typically no more than 20 hours a week) and with their local school district’s approval. The focus of such rules is to make sure affected teens don’t drop out of school.
Age of Consent
While teens in practical terms engage in premarital sex, a 14-year-old is generally below the age of consent to engage in such a physical relationship with an adult. Despite how mature a 14-year-old teen may be mentally, he has no legal capacity under the law’s view to join with an adult. Thus, while some adults or older teens may try to argue otherwise, a 14-year-old teen is automatically considered a victim of a criminal, predatory adult in such a relationship -- a crime defined as statutory rape.
With regard to medical care and a 14-year-old’s ability to make such decision, the rules vary between the medical community standard and the prudent patient view and by state. The medical community perspective assumes a state standard already exists established by the medical community regarding what is acceptable consent by a minor. The prudent patient standard looks at issues case by case and typically requires a third-party expert witness to corroborate a physician’s view that a 14-year-old’s medical consent was appropriate to rely on.