ACEI typically focuses on the years of childhood from birth to 13, which includes what is known as the early childhood and middle childhood years. ACEI is less concerned with supporting specific age ranges, however, than with ensuring a good start in life for all children during critical developmental years. ACEI believes that the entire span of childhood deserves attention.
ACEI, therefore, often concerns itself with issues that impact children during their teenage years, up to about 18 years of age, when children are still developing and often quite vulnerable. Below, you will find current definitions of "child," "early childhood," "middle childhood," and a new international definition for "youth" that now includes what traditionally has been considered as early adulthood years.
Early Childhood. In most nations, early childhood is defined as the period of life before formal schooling begins. This definition also might include the first couple years of schooling. Early childhood is a time of critical change and development as children attain the skills they will use and develop throughout the rest of their lives. During this period, there is rapid development in physical, mental, and social-emotional capacities. Infants begin life in a state of total dependence. They rely on parents and/or other caregivers to feed, clean, and nurture them with patience and love as they grow and develop. As they mature, young children begin to develop independent skills and learn to feed and dress themselves. Play is vitally important for all children during these years as it is the vehicle through which they explore their world and acquire foundational skills in language, math, and science. In some nations, early childhood is defined as 0-6 years, while in others the definition of early childhood includes children up until about 8 years.
Middle Childhood. In many nations, middle childhood is defined as the period of life between ages 6 - 12, when children attend school, make friends outside the immediate family, master new physical and mental skills, and become more and more independent. During the school-age years, children are exploring their concept of self in relation to others. They also begin to expand their concerns to areas like the environment and they begin to contemplate global problems. School-age children are trying to find themselves and their place in their community and the world. Their families, schools, and religious backgrounds begin to shape their values and character.
Child. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines a child as anyone below the age of 18 years, unless national laws recognize the age of majority as earlier. The UNCRC intentionally offered a broad definition of childhood that overlaps with the UN definition of youth.
Youth. The United Nations generally defines youth as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, with an understanding that young people are in constant evolution and that the experience of "being young" varies enormously across regions and within communities. Within the category of "youth," it is also important to distinguish between teenagers (ages 13-19) and young adults (ages 20-24).