A child is a human being between birth and puberty; a boy or girl. The legal definition of "child" generally refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority. "Child" may also describe a relationship with a parent or authority figure, or signify group membership in a clan, tribe, or religion; it can also signify being strongly affected by a specific time, place, or circumstance, as in "a child of nature" or "a child of the Sixties.
Social attitudes toward children differ around the world, and these attitudes have changed over time. One study has found children in the United States are coddled and overprotected. A 1988 study on European attitudes toward the centrality of children found Italy was more child-centric and Holland less child-centric, with other countries (Austria, Great Britain, Ireland, and West Germany) falling in between.
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.