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The other day, I went to a bookstore and saw that there was a "児童" section, which means children's section. But more often in books, I see "子供" used instead. When to use each of them?

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児童 is defined in the School Education Act as children from the age of six to twelve who goes to elementary school and in some laws like the Child Welfare Act as children under eighteen.

児童 is used in formal names like 児童養護施設 (children's institution), 児童相談所 (child consultation center), etc. That is to say, 児童 is a formal and legal word for children whose age is under eighteen.

子供 generally means a child as indicated in the following link, こども【子供】

  • Does it matter that 子供 with the どの written in kanji was only recently added to 常用 or is that not relevant to usage? – virmaior Aug 16 '16 at 15:35
  • I think 殿 is 常用漢字 from of old. – Yuuichi Tam Aug 16 '16 at 15:49
  • We don't use 殿 after 子供, as you don't say Mr./Miss child, which sounds very awkward. – Yoichi Oishi Aug 17 '16 at 2:23
  • I actually miswrote that... I mean ども (I feel like for a while the correct orthography was 子ども) – virmaior Aug 17 '16 at 3:14
  • 供 is also 常用漢字 from of old. I think there is no difference whether ども in 子ども is written in 漢字 or not, but now, I know there is a thought that 子ども is more appropriate than 子供. detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1311017803 – Yuuichi Tam Aug 17 '16 at 3:58
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子供 is a common word eqivalent to child (children) and kid. 児童 is a big word for 子供, which is used in formal and legal usages as in "児童文学," "児童教育,"and "児童相談所" as Yuuichi cited.

I thought we can say ”幼稚園(保育園)児童. But 新明解国語辞典 published by Sanseido defines "児童" as "(小学校に在籍する)子供 - child (or children) (who goes to elementary school) with "who goes to elementary school" in parenthes.

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