Germany has a political scandal currently. A 40 year old politician had a sexual relationship with a 16 year old girl/woman. Jugendlicher, Teenager, Schulkind are afaik common terms in Germany with a juristic defintion. But are above terms clearly separated in daily usage/understanding, esp. in different regions (rural/urban/federal states)? Apart from relative age difference there seems to be a major debate mainly driven by different opinions/language when childhood ends (and therefore moral misbehaviour begins). Is Schulkind, containing the critical term Kind, at all widely used or more a rural term for very young school kids in elementary school?


From Wikipedia, about juristic definitions:

Nach deutschem Recht ist Jugendlicher, wer 14 (außer im Jugendarbeitsschutzgesetz, dort ab 15), aber noch nicht 18 Jahre alt ist. Im Kontext des Achten Buches Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB VIII), ist in Deutschland Jugendlicher, „wer 14, aber noch nicht 18 Jahre alt ist“ (§ 7 Abs. 1 Nr. 2 SGB VIII). Ein Jugendlicher gehört zu den im SGB VIII definierten jungen Menschen, zu denen ebenfalls die jüngere Personengruppe der Kinder gehört (mit Ausnahmen, „wer noch nicht 14 Jahre alt ist“) und die ältere Personengruppe der jungen Volljährigen („wer 18, aber noch nicht 27 Jahre alt ist“). Heranwachsender ist nach dem Jugendgerichtsgesetz jede Person, die das 18. Lebensjahr, aber noch nicht das 21. Lebensjahr vollendet hat


mit Ausnahme der Bestimmungen zur Pflege und Erziehung der Kinder als Recht und Pflicht der Eltern (Kind in diesem Sinne ist, „wer noch nicht 18 Jahre alt ist“) und zur Annahme als Kind (Kind in diesem Sinne sind „Personen, die das 18. Lebensjahr noch nicht vollendet haben“); Kinder gehören zu den im SGB VIII definierten jungen Menschen. Nach § 32 AufenthG gilt als minderjähriges Kind, wer das 16. Lebensjahr noch nicht vollendet hat (vgl. Kindernachzug).

In English:

  • Jugendlicher is at least 14, but not yet 18 years (with exceptions)
  • A Kind (regarding age only) is younger than 14 years
  • Junge Volljährige are at least 18, but not yet 27 years old
  • The preceding three groups together are called junge Menschen
  • Heranwachsender is at least 18, but not yet 21
  • A Kind is anyone below 18 when talking about parenting
  • A minderjähriges Kind is anyone below 16.
  • A Schulkind is defined as at least 6, but not yet 16

This Wikipedia article has a nice chart for the age groups.

There's of course the term Schulpflichtiger, which is someone that must go to school (i.e. did not yet finish the required nine years).

In everyday language, Teenager and Jugendlicher are used interchangeably (with Teenager not really limited to 10-19 (or rather 13-19, coming from the English term), typically starting later though). It depends on your age; older people may call anyone under thirty Jugendlicher ("diese Jugend!" / "die Jugend von heute!"). The term Kind is sometimes used for older Teenagers as well to emphasize an age difference. Schulkind roughly matches the juristic definition; Schüler might be a better (i.e. politically correct) word because it avoids the Kind and can be used for all ages. For elementary school, you may instead use Grundschüler.

Young people sometimes insist on being treated as adults; there is a blurry line between when you should call a girl a young woman, or a boy a young man, or say "Sie" to them. This may begin at about 16, and go up to the age of 20, and with this line, the terms to use move.

  • whats about terms like Kindergeld?. Are there similar terms in german bureaucracy used non only for non under aged in specific context and falsifying the perception of people, what defined age Kind relates to. @user unknown im not so handy with regex afaik you used this in another question to filter out words listed in a dictionary. What common expressions used for non under aged contain *kind*? – Hauser Aug 17 '11 at 13:20
  • 1
    @Hauser: I'd say that the "Kinder" in Kindergeld refers to Kind in the sense of blood relation, not in the sense of age. – Hendrik Vogt Aug 17 '11 at 14:10
  • @Hendrik i know thats the meaning. The whole question to me here is more how juristic definitions are dissolved unconsciously in daily langugage usage due to this type of ambiguous expressions. Of course kindergeld refers to your own kids and not the age of a person. But imo this whole debate is partly driven by this unaware/unconscious & different use of kind for humans way older than 6-12, esp. in rural regions. I think teenager is much more common in urban regions. – Hauser Aug 17 '11 at 15:01

Jugendlicher is a common, official and juristic term for young people not yet in the age of full criminal responsibility.

Teenager is adapted from the english term and refers to kids between the age of 13-19 ("teens").

Schulkinder are basically people going to school. Yes, it is basically more widely used for young kids going into their first few years in school.


Both Teenager and Jugendliche are fairly common in colloquial use. Jugendlicher seems to be getting a little less common and more old-fashioned, while Teenager is getting more common particularly among younger generations, but neither word would raise an eyebrow when referring to anyone between the ages of thirteen and twenty.

I've hardly ever heard anyone use the word "Schulkind" for a kid older than elementary school age, and never for anyone older than 7th grade or so.

  • 1
    What is 7th grade? 7te Klasse? – user unknown Aug 16 '11 at 20:26
  • Yes, it means "7te Klasse". From what I have seen "7. Klasse" seems to be more commonly used than "7te Klasse" btw. "Siebente Klasse" is also common, as is "siebte Klasse", both spellings are correct. – Katharina Nickel Aug 17 '11 at 3:48
  • Both "7. Klasse" and "siebte Klasse" are quite common, but I've hardly ever seen "siebente Klasse," although it's grammatically correct. Might be a regional difference? I'm Bavarian. – Cass Aug 17 '11 at 6:19

In the American usage, these terms would refer to different degrees of "minority" for the purposes of "age of consent" or "dating" eligibility.

"Kind" would refer to a child, someone up to the age of 12 of 13, (depending on the state), a "first degree" minor who is clearly not "dating" eligible.

Jugendlicher would refer to an older person, between 13-14 at the low end, and 16-17 at the upper end, or a "second degree" minor, who is more of an adolescent than a child, therefore "datable" by "nature," but not in the eyes of the law.

Teenager is a misleading term in this context. While it refers to ages 13-19, it spans all three categories; a 13-year old "Kind," a 14-17 year old "Jugendlicher," and an 18-19 year old of "full age" of consent.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.