What is a child?

Girl on stepping stones

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, a child is someone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. Once they turn 18, they are legally an adult.

In most situations in Scotland, a child is defined as someone who is under 18. But in some contexts, for example in some parts of the child protection system, a child is defined as a person under 16 years of age.

There are also different laws across the UK that specify age limits for young people in different circumstances. These include leaving school; leaving care; the age of consent; and the age of criminal responsibility.

Read more about legal definitions