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A male Caucasian toddler child

A child (plural: children) is a young human. Depending on context it may mean someone who is not yet an adult, or someone who has not yet reached puberty (someone who is prepubescent).

Child is also the opposite of parent: adults are the children of their parents despite their maturation beyond infancy; for example "Benjamin, aged 26, is the child of Tobias, aged 63". Similarly in a generalized sense, see child node.



A female child is called a girl and a male child is a boy (though a small percentage of humans are intersexual, this is a distinction of biological sex, not necessarily social or psychological gender). Apart from the reproductive system, young children do not differ much by sex. Whether cultural and parental practices emphasize or weaken gender identity is subject to debate. In general, the extent to which gender identity is formed during childhood or congenital is a matter of much debate within psychology and genetics. See also nature vs. nurture.


In law, a person who is not yet a legal adult is known as a minor (known in some places as a juvenile, or, in others, as an infant). For example, in many countries a person under the age of 18 is a minor. Most countries give additional legal protection to minors despite their underage status, and all United Nations member states except the United States and Somalia have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, although not all of them have followed it.


Child development is the study or examination of processes and mechanisms that operate during the physical and mental development of an infant into an adult.

Pediatrics is the branch of medicine relating to the care of children. It encompasses ages from prenatal to teenagers and even young adults (ages 0-21 years).

Terms for stages of age-related physical development include, with their approximate age ranges:

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South American boy

Also sometimes used are terms that specify one's age in decades, such as:

Physical development milestones

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Smiling child

Note: the Tanner stages can be used to approximately judge a child's age based on physical development.

Cognitive development

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Palestinian children in Jenin

Notable child prodigies

See also: Child prodigy

Human development

Human development refers to all forms of development above, often in the context of clinical or developmental psychology, or as human development theory (in economics, an outgrowth of welfare economics).

Both the psychological and economic fields share a special concern with education and language fluency including literacy and numeracy, and with identification and development of more unique talents into the economic variable known as individual capital.

Earlier branches of economics see humans in terms of labour for production, means of persuasion or protection, which tend to be skills acquired only in adolescence and adulthood. The human development view is more evident in sports, music and other performing arts, such as acting where the child begins training often as early as three years of age. Think of Tiger Woods and his early practice golfing.

While there are problems with such early "streaming", child murder, child abandonment, military use of children and other major social ills are thought to be reduced by a human development approach – as there is a high value assigned to children by the state.

The UN Human Development Index is a means of measuring well-being used to rank states by these criteria. Although child abuse is thought to be lower in countries with a high ranking on this Index, that is not easily proven.

Other uses of the word

Childhood Theme is a song performed by Michael Jackson. It is the theme of the movie Free Willy 2, and on the album HIStory ( lyrics (

See also

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List of child related articles

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