Historically, childhood has been defined as the time period prior to adulthood or maturity. A more precise contemporary definition frames childhood as the period between the end of infancy and the beginning of adolescence or from approximately 2–12 years of age. The juvenile period of physical and cognitive immaturity is substantially longer relative to the overall life span for humans compared to other species. This lengthy period of immaturity is due to the complexity of the human brain.

Humans’ lengthy childhood allows for substantial flexibility in development, such that individuals can adapt to a wide range of physical and cultural environments. Understanding of children and their development is critical to educational policy and practice. This entry discusses the history of the construct of childhood, methods for ...

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