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Children in a doorway in Jerusalem
File:Children in Namibia(1 cropped).jpg
Children in Namibia

A child (plural: children) is a human being between birth and puberty.[1] The term may also define a relationship with a parent or authority figure, or signify group membership in a clan, tribe, or religion; or it can signify being strongly affected by a specific time, place, or circumstance, as in "a child of nature" or "a child of the Sixties."[2]

Legal definition

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as "every human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier".[3]

In a New York court ruling in 2006 on the eviction of a pregnant woman, the court declared that her child was equally protected under the law although the eviction notice was served before the child was born.[4]

Biological definition

Biologically, a child is anyone in the developmental stage of childhood, between infancy and adulthood.

Attitudes toward children

Girls in China

Social attitudes toward children differ around the world, and these attitudes have changed over time. One study has found that children in the United States are coddled and overprotected.[5] A 1988 study on European attitudes toward the centrality of children found that Italy was more child-centric and Holland less child-centric, with other countries (Austria, Great Britain, Ireland, and West Germany) falling in between.[6]

Age of responsibility

The age at which children are considered responsible for their own actions has also changed over time, and this is reflected in the way they are treated in courts of law. In Roman times, children were regarded as not culpable for crimes, a position later adopted by the Church. In the nineteenth century, children younger than seven years old were believed incapable of crime. Children from the age of seven were considered responsible for their actions. Hence, they could face criminal charges, be sent to adult prisons, and be punished like adults by whipping, branding or hanging.[7]

See also


  1. ""child" Unabridged (v 1.1)". Random House, Inc. January 25, 2008.
  2. "American Heritage Dictionary". December 7, 2007.
  3. "Convention on the Rights of the Child". Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ratified by 192 of 194 member countries.
  4. "Tens of thousands of children evicted without a warrant". EMAILWIRE.COM,. 2006-11-24. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. Child-centered America
  6. Rachel K. Jones and April Brayfield, Life's greatest joy?: European attitudes toward the centrality of children. Social Forces, Vol. 75, No. 4, Jun 1997. 1,239-69 pp. Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  7. Juvenile courts

External links


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