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Parents and their teenage children don't always get along. At some time during adolescent development, parents may turn into embarrassments and teenagers into domestic terrorists. For most families this is a phase. Adolescence is endured, the child accomplishes some degree of separation from parents, and the transition to adulthood advances.

In some families, however, the period is more like a siege than a phase. Conflict may last longer and be more strifeful, more intense. If the family is incapable or unwilling to resolve the tensions, an intractability may set in. In these cases, domestic tranquility seems attainable only when the child is not at home. In recent years, parents have employed various approaches to bring about their child's absence. Depending on family history, temperament, and resources, frustrated parents have removed frustrated teenagers by sending them to private schools and camps, hospitalizing them, relinquishing custody to the state, pushing them out as runaways, or by cutting the child loose, as recommended in the Tough Love programs.

This Article reports on the use of still another mechanism for removing children in conflict with their parents: statutory emancipation, the process by which minors attain legal adulthood before reaching the age of majority. Statutorily emancipated minors can sign binding contracts, own property, keep their earnings, and disobey their parents. Although under eighteen, they are "considered as being over the age of majority" in most of their dealings with parents and third parties. Thus, while emancipated minors can sign contracts and stay out late, their adult status also means that their parents are no longer responsible for the minors' support. To understand why minors choose to restructure their relationships with their parents and to redefine their status within society through the mechanism of emancipation, we undertook an empirical study on the use of emancipation in two northern California counties. The results of that study are reported here.


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