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Defining Childhood Across Cultures
Elizabeth Hogan, Edison Intermediate School, Westfield, NJ

CORE QUESTION: How do various cultures and peoples define childhood?

OVERVIEW: The definition of what is a "child" goes far beyond the legal interpretations. Cultures throughout the world offer different definitions, and those definitions may further be complicated by regional differences within a country, or by other factors such as socio-economic.

TIME REQUIRED: 40 minutes

SUGGESTED GRADE LEVELS: Grades 7 & 8 but can be modified for older students adding more of a Sociological approach.


NEW JERSEY CORE CONTENT STANDARDS 6.2 (11) Humanities, 6.3 (14) Human Rights, 6.5 (13 & 14) Cultures.


  1. To identify how various people from different world cultures define childhood.
  2. To compare and contrast the definitions among cultures.
  3. To identify the sources the students own definitions drew upon.


  1. Brainstorming - How would you define childhood?
  2. Read the participant countries' interviews.

MATERIALS: Sample interview questions sheet and the results (translated).

Interview Questions of Children's Roles and Rights
Global Citizen 2000

English: May I interview you and use your photo and words for a Project called Global Citizen 2000 at Rutgers University in the United States?
Español: ¿Podría por favor realizar una entrevista con Ud. y usar su foto y respuestas para un proyecto llamado Global Citizen 2000 de la universidad de Rutgers en los Estados Unidos?
Français: Puis-je faire une interview et me servir de votre photo et de vos commentaires pour le projet Citoyen du Monde 2000 de Rutgers University aux Etats-Unis ?
English: Your name? ______________________________________________ Age:_____
Español: ¿Sunombre.?____________________________________________ Edad:_____
Français: votre nom ? ______________________________________________ Age : _______
English: How would you define a child (vs. an adult)?
Español: ¿Cuál sería su definición de un niño (en contraste con un adulto)?
Français: Quelle est votre définition d’un enfant (en comparaison avec un adulte) ?
English: What are the roles of children in your town?
Español: ¿Cuáles son los papeles de los niños en su ciudad?
Français: Quels sont les rôles des enfants dans votre ville ? dans votre pays ?
English: What rights do children have in your country?
Español: ¿Qué derechos tienen los niños en su sociedad?
Français: Quels sont les droits des enfants dans votre société?
English: How are children’s rights protected in your society?
Español: ¿Cómo son protegidos los derechos de los niños en su sociedad?
Français: Comment protège-t-on les enfants dans votre société ?
English: What is expected of children in your society?
Español: ¿Qué se espera de los niños en su sociedad?
Français: Qu’attend-on des enfants dans votre société ?


ASSESSMENT: Students will develop five of their own interview questions that relate to the topic and conduct three of their own interviews. The interviews need to be either hand written or taped. Students will write a one page summary analyzing the results.

To learn more about the influence of Children's Rights on our global society, click on the links below:
Relevance | Lesson Plans | Resources | Results

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