A Detailed Definition Of Childhood
Biologically, childhood lasts until adolescence. However, in some cultures, childhood is considered until a person has reached the age of legality. In the US, this period ends at 18. Childhood experiences can significantly impact who each person grows up to be, and adverse experiences may require the support of a professional. Understanding the definition of childhood can help you on the path to understanding your children or the impact of your childhood on who you are as an adult.
When Is Childhood?
There are two forms of childhood definitions: biological and social.
Biological Childhood Definition
Biologically, childhood is the period of growth until adolescence, which starts around ten to 13. At this point, puberty occurs, and the body starts changing to prepare for adulthood. While there may be parts of you that are still not done developing, such as your brain, you may move forward from your childhood body and start to regulate your own emotions and have more autonomy.
Social Childhood Definition
Socially, many view adolescents as children until they reach the age of legality. This definition can differ worldwide, but the age of legality is 18 to 21 in many societies. While you may have matured biologically, you may still be experiencing changes and are generally not quite ready to handle adult life as an adolescent.
What Are The Stages Of Childhood?
Within childhood, there are multiple stages. Infancy begins from birth to age one to two. Early childhood begins around age two and lasts until age eight. Middle childhood spans the ages of nine to 12. Adolescence covers the teenage years of 13 through 18. However, new studies show that adolescence may extend to age 24. Below are in-depth explanations of each of these stages.
Early childhood encompasses toddlers to children aged eight. Sometimes, infancy is included in early childhood. However, some argue that, due to a lack of memories from infancy, it is not part of the childhood experience.
The first five years of a child’s life may be some of the most crucial in development. Much happens during this time that can affect that child’s life later. Early childhood often involves gradual learning, as children may discover the world around them and make friends. They may make choices and start to understand consequences, often under the watchful eye of adults.
Your early childhood can shape who you become as an adolescent and an adult. Your brain is underdeveloped at this stage, and your experiences can impact your general beliefs and attitudes.
Several characteristics can define early childhood, including the following:
- Experiencing separation anxiety
- Improving memory
- Toilet training
- Learning how to walk and run
- Engaging in pretend play
- Having mood swings
- Talking more often
- Gaining social skills
The five areas of development in early childhood include the following:
- Speech and language skills
- Fine motor skills
- Social and emotional skills
- Cognitive skills
- Gross motor skills
Children often progress at different speeds. As they grow and learn, they may have one or all of the above characteristics. If you’re concerned with your child’s development, consider contacting their pediatrician for further support.
Middle childhood begins at age nine and continues until prepubescence. At this stage, the child often begins to have more independence. Some parents may feel comfortable leaving their kids at home or letting them complete specific tasks without being monitored. Their talents and personality may begin to show, and they may start to mature. Children in this stage are still young and learning new skills, but they may be starting to show signs of a more defined personality.
Some common traits of middle childhood can be:
- Thinking more about one’s future
- Experiencing peer pressure and caring about what others think
- Gaining independence
- Thinking for oneself
- Identifying and understanding emotions
- Building friendships with peers
- Wanting to belong and be accepted
- Getting better at reading and other school subjects
- Adjusting to school life and having a routine
Adolescence encompasses the teenage years, from ages 13 to 18. Children may begin to think critically, question authority, and learn about their bodies at this stage. While still minors, they often start to take on adult responsibilities, such as driving a car or having a job.
Some traits of the teen years may include:
- Thinking more abstractly
- Creating longer-term goals
- Questioning identity
- Exhibiting moodiness
- Pushing boundaries
- Challenging or breaking rules
- Spending more time with friends than family
- Living with poor self-esteem or overconfidence
- Obsessing over appearance
- Following trends
- Making independent decisions
- Questioning the future
- Implementing problem-solving skills
Teens develop and act differently. While being a teen can be exciting for some, it can also be stressful and involve more of a risk for peer pressure, mental illness, and substance use. Although teens may gain independence during this stage, they may still rely on their parents for safety.
If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.
Childhood Throughout The Years
The definition of childhood has developed throughout history. Hundreds of years ago, children were often viewed as adults in small bodies. Many had their own jobs and daily responsibilities. Currently, psychologists understand the psychological and physical differences between children and adults. Children behave and learn differently than adults and may struggle to consider essential topics adults might discuss.
How Your Childhood Can Influence You
Studies have found that childhood can significantly impact adulthood. For example, a child with a supportive family may have a better chance of succeeding academically and socially. However, children harshly criticized or mistreated by their caregivers may grow uncertain or apathetic. There may be exceptions to this rule, as some children with supportive families grow up to have struggles, and mental illness may have a biological factor. In addition, some children who come from traumatic homes may grow up to be resilient and stable adults.
In addition, the way a child is disciplined can impact how they behave as an adult. Children with no discipline may have a more challenging time discerning between healthy and unhealthy behaviors and may not fully understand the consequences of their actions. Children who receive harsh punishments may grow up with insecurities and fears that can impact their relationships.
Different parenting styles can also play a role in a child’s development. Authoritative parenting is the most effective because it combines empathy, honesty, reasonableness, and warmth. Parents can switch their parenting styles over time and learn more about these topics by discussing them with a child psychologist. If a child lives in a two-parent household, it can be helpful for both parents to agree on parenting styles.
Counseling Options For Adults
Childhood can be a period of growth and wonder. However, if your childhood continues to affect you adversely into adulthood, you’re not alone, and help is available. You may choose to visit a therapist’s office or try online therapy to connect with a licensed professional from the comfort of your home.
If you opt for an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can outline your goals to speak with a childhood trauma expert and choose a treatment format you’re comfortable with, whether video, chat, or phone sessions.
One study found that online therapy could be as effective as traditional in-office therapy for various mental health conditions. If you feel that experiences from childhood continue to hold you back, online therapy could be an effective and affordable choice.
Socially, childhood lasts until the age of legality. However, biologically, childhood ends when a person enters adolescence. However, note that adolescence is not adulthood and is a separate biological state in itself with unique needs. Childhood can contain three stages, including early, middle, and late childhood (adolescence). Often, childhood experiences shape the adults individuals grow up to become. Adverse experiences in childhood may have lasting negative impacts, but it may be possible to work through them with the help of a licensed therapist. Consider contacting a provider to discuss these concerns and how they impact your life.
How do you define childhood?
Childhood means different things to different people depending on history, culture, and experience. According to Brittanica.com, childhood is the "period of the human lifespan between infancy and adolescence, extending from ages 1-2 to 12-13."
What is childhood, and why is it important?
Childhood is crucial because it provides the building blocks for human beings' physical, emotional, cognitive, and social development in many ways.
For example, people typically learn to interact with others, understand social cues, and develop relationships during this time. Childhood is also a critical time for emotional development.
Most people form a sense of self and identity during their early years-- with experiences, interactions, and environment contributing significantly to shaping an individual's values, beliefs, and self-esteem.
The habits and behaviors we develop during childhood often persist into adulthood. Caregivers need to encourage healthy habits such as nutritious eating, exercise, and good hygiene early on.
What is the meaning of childhood development?
Development, in the context of childhood, refers to the progressive growth and change that occurs from birth through adolescence. Childhood is the period during which development occurs rapidly, laying the foundation for a person's future.
Childhood development encompasses various areas:
- Physical Development-- This involves changes in the body, including growth in height and weight, motor skill development, and the maturation of organs and systems.
- Cognitive Development-- Refers to mental abilities such as thinking, learning, understanding, problem-solving, and language development. It includes how children perceive and interact with the world around them.
- Emotional Development-- Involves the understanding, expression, and management of emotions. It includes learning empathy, forming attachments, and developing self-awareness and emotional regulation.
- Social Development-- Relates to how children learn to interact with others, form relationships, understand social norms, and develop a sense of identity within the context of their society.
What is the childhood phase of life?
Childhood refers to the early stages of human development, typically spanning from infancy to adolescence. While there are different models for childhood development in the field of family and child psychology, there are four core phases:
Infancy (Birth-2 Years)
Newborn infants grow rapidly into toddlerhood during this phase. This is a time when children develop motor skills, begin to communicate through sounds and gestures and form attachments with caregivers.
Early Childhood (2-6 or -7 Years)
This stage is characterized by continued physical growth, significant language development, the beginning of formal education or preschool, and the exploration of social interactions and basic emotions.
Middle Childhood (7-11 or -12 Years)
This phase involves further cognitive development, increased social interactions and friendships, refining of motor skills, and the growth of more complex emotions and social understanding. This stage often marks a greater sense of independence as the child begins to spend more time away from the family. A child's physical abilities also typically increase during middle childhood.
Adolescence (12-18 Years)
This is the transitional phase between childhood and adulthood, where adolescents experience rapid physical changes due to puberty, increased independence, further cognitive development, the formation of personal identity, and the exploration of more complex social relationships.
What was the best thing about childhood?
Everyone has a unique perspective on childhood and the parts we remember most fondly. For some, the best thing is the love and care of family. For others, it's the fun and stimulation of playing or the excitement of new discoveries. Regardless of your childhood experiences, it's important to understand how they shaped you and made you who you are today. By reflecting on their childhood experiences, individuals can continue growing and learning more about their identities as adults.
What makes the best childhood?
While this is also a subjective topic, research suggests that family bonds play the most significant role in a happy childhood beyond school, peer groups, and community. The best childhood is shaped by a supportive family that provides guidance and love.
Why is childhood so special?
Childhood is a critical and formative time filled with learning, play, discovery, and acquiring the basic skills necessary for a happy, productive adulthood. But a child's development isn't the only thing that makes childhood special. For many, it's a special time because of the treasured memories we make and the dear friendships we form.
How do childhood experiences influence our lives?
The experiences you have as a young child often significantly impact your ability to learn, problem-solve, and develop essential skills like communication, empathy, and resilience. Research also indicates that our childhood experiences greatly influence family health in adulthood.
In a 2021 study published in BMC Public Health, 1030 adults in the U.S. completed a survey about their social and emotional experiences in childhood. They were also asked about their family lifestyle, getting healthcare, and social support in childhood. Demographic characteristics such as marital status, level of education, gender, race, and age were accounted for.
Researchers found that "adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) were negatively associated with family social and emotional health processes and family health resources when accounting for positive childhood experiences (PCEs); PCEs were positively associated with all four family health domains irrespective of ACES."
What are the important childhood years?
From a growth and development standpoint, the most critical childhood years are during the earliest age group. Science reveals that a child's cognitive growth is most rapid between birth and five years, with children developing more than 1 million neural connections each second.
Why are positive childhood experiences important?
The experiences and environment during childhood play a crucial role in shaping a child's abilities, behaviors, and well-being later in life. Therefore, providing a supportive, nurturing, and stimulating environment during these formative years is vital for healthy physical and psychological development.
- Previous Article
- Next Article