To infantilize usually involves describing or treating older people who are not infants as infant-like. This entry reviews and questions the process and its underlying assumptions, purpose, and effects. The question of whether infants themselves may be infantilized is also considered.

Infantilization Defined

‘Infant’ literally means without speech, and the term describes the first 12 to 18 months of childhood. Medical records, such as on infant mortality, span up to 1 year of age. Infant schools and classes in Britain, however, admit children aged 4–7 years. In law, infants or minors do not possess full legal rights to manage property, sign contracts, or vote until the age of 16, 18 or, in parts of the United States, 21 years. So the term ‘infant’ is applied to very ...

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