Definition of the Child – Article 1 and 2 – (2-2)

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Homo sapiens is the term commonly used to refer to the human race, which includes man, woman and child.

Why and how to define a child ?

The responses to these questions vary greatly according to historical moment and place. To take two examples, during the 17th (and beginning of the 18th) century in France, children as young as fifteen could be found at the head of Louis XIV’s armies, while on the other hand, certain countries today limit marriage to adults and set the minimum age at 12.

As such, when can we say that a human being is a child or is no longer a child? What criteria should be used ? As we have seen, the understanding, perception and hence responses to these questions can vary greatly among cultures and over time.

How to define a child ? Let’s look at the origin of a word closely related to child - infant, a young child. The root of the modern word « infant » is the Latin word « infans » meaning « he who does not speak ».

In the past, a child was considered like an object, whose life depended entirely on the choices, decisions and wishes of adults, reducing the child to the very well-known phrase : « a child should be seen but not heard ».

The evolution of ideas first allowed for the emergence of the concept of human rights, and later, the rights of the child. From that moment on, children were considered full-fledged human beings instead of future adults with only future rights.

Children are not little adults with little rights.

Children are not little adults with little rights.

From a biological point of view, a child is a person who is not of age to have children. The development of a child is a process more or less continuous that passes through several stages :

Thanks to the International Convention of the Rights of the Child, all countries share the same definition of a child

0 to 28 days, newborn

28 days to 2 years, infant

2 to 6 years, early childhood

6 to 13 years, childhood, the term preadolescent is also commonly used

Beginning at 13 years of age, puberty marks a period of transition from childhood to adulthood. Functioning of the hormonal system that will provoke the peak of physical growth, maturation of the reproductive system and physical changes all occur.

The great cultural differences that exist among countries as well as the significant physical and emotional changes involved in passing from childhood to adulthood have brought attention to the need to find a consensual definition, a global reference that is valid and acceptable to all and that allows each child to be equally taken into account, regardless of where in the world she is.

The United Nations thus drew up a definition of the child so that all countries having ratified the international Convention of the Rights of the Child share the same reference, which is laid down in Article 1 of the Convention :

« A child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier»

Thanks to the Convention, it became very simple to define a child, which is a human being under 18 years of age, unless the law of his or her country deems him or her to be an adult at an earlier age, which is rare.

The future

According to UNICEF estimates, 130 million children are born each year. In many countries, they represent more than 50% of the population.

It is absolutely essential that the rights of children are respected so that, first of all, they survive and are helped to mature and develop in harmony.

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For the text of the Convention, click here

To see the animated cartoon about the rights of the child, click here

For the quiz, click here

For the games, click here

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