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INFANT

established in 1907 in north-west London. Though started by private persons it was in 1909 worked in connexion with the Health Department of the Borough Council, but was supported by charitable subscriptions and by a small contribution from the student mothers. There are classes for mothers on the care of their health during pregnancy, infant feeding, home nursing, cooking and needlework. Poor mothers unable to contribute get free dinners for three months previous to the birth of their child and for nine months after if the child is breast-fed. Two doctors are in attendance, and mothers are encouraged to bring their children fortnightly to be weighed, and receive advice. The average attendance is ninety. A baby is said to have “graduated” when it is a year old. An interesting development in connexion with the scheme is a class for fathers at which the medical officer of health for the district lectures on the duties of fatherhood. Similar schools for mothers are now established in Fulham and Stepney. Weighing centres have been established at Dundee, Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Bolton, Belfast, and Newcastle-on-Tyne. An infants’ milk depôt has been established at Finsbury, and effort is being made to establish milk laboratories where separate nursing portions of sterile milk could be supplied to poor mothers. The Walker-Gordon milk laboratories in the United States are a step in this direction.

The average length of a child at birth is 19½ in. and during the first year the average increase is 778 in. A new-born infant is deaf (Koplik). This is supposed to be due to the blocking of the eustachian tubes with mucus. On the fourth day there is some evidence of hearing, and at the fifth week noises in the room disturb it. A healthy infant may be taken out of doors when a fortnight old in summer, after which it should have a daily outing, the eyes being protected from the direct rays of the sun. On the second day the eyes are sensitive to light, in the second month the infant notices colours, at the sixth month it knows its parents, and should be able to hold its head up. At the sixth month the baby begins to cut its temporary teeth. After their appearance they should be cleaned once a day by a piece of gauze moistened in boric acid solution. Attempts to stand are made about the tenth month, and walking begins about the fourteenth month. By this time the intelligence should be developed and memory is observed. A child a year old should be able to articulate a few small words. With the advent of walking and speech the period of infancy may be said to end.

See Pierre Budin, The Nursling (1907); Henry Koplik, Disease of Infancy and Childhood (1906); Eric Pritchard, The Physiological Feeding of Infants (1904); Eric Pritchard, Infant Education (1907); John Grimshaw, Your Child’s Health (1908). (H. L. H.)

INFANT (in early forms enfaunt, enfant, through the Fr. enfant, from Lat. infans, in, not, and fans, the present participle of fari, to speak), a child; in non-legal use, a very young child, a baby, or one of an age suitable to be taught in an “infant school”; in law, a person under full age, and therefore subject to disabilities not affecting persons who have attained full age.

This article deals with “infants” in the last sense; for the more general sense see Infancy and Child. The period of full age varies widely in different systems, as do also the disabilities attaching to nonage (non-age). In Roman law, the age of puberty, fixed at fourteen for males and twelve for females, was recognized as a dividing line. Under that age a child was under the guardianship of a tutor, but several degrees of infancy were recognized. The first was absolute infancy; after that, until the age of seven, a child was infantiae proximus; and from the eighth year to puberty he was pubertati proximus. An infant in the last stage could, with the assent of his tutor, act so as to bind himself by stipulations; in the earlier stages he could not, although binding stipulations could be made to him in the second stage. After puberty, until the age of twenty-five years, a modified infancy was recognized, during which the minor’s acts were not void altogether, but voidable, and a curator was appointed to manage his affairs. The difference between the tutor and the curator in Roman law was marked by the saying that the former was appointed for the care of the person, the latter for the estate of the pupil. These principles apply only to children who are sui juris. The patria potestas, so long as it lasts, gives to the father the complete control of the son’s actions. The right of the father to appoint tutors to his children by will (testamentarii) was recognized by the Twelve Tables, as was also the tutorship of the agnati (or legal as distinct from natural relations) in default of such an appointment. Tutors who held office in virtue of a general law were called legitimi. Besides and in default of these, tutors dativi were appointed by the magistrates. These terms are still used in much the same sense in modern systems founded on the Roman law, as may be seen in the case of Scotland, noticed below.

By the law of England full age is twenty-one, and all minors alike are subject to incapacities. The period of twenty-one years is regarded as complete at the beginning of the day before the birthday: for example, an infant born on the first day of January attains his majority at the first moment of the 31st of December. The incapacity of an infant is designed for his own protection, and its general effect is to prevent him from binding himself absolutely by obligations. Of the contracts of an infant which are binding ab initio, the most important are those relating to “necessaries.” By the Sale of Goods Act 1893, an infant liable on a contract for necessaries can be sued only for a reasonable price, not necessarily the price he agreed to pay. The same statute declares “necessaries” to mean “goods suitable to the condition in life of the infant, and to his actual requirements at the time of the sale and delivery.” In the case of goods having a market price, the market price is reasonable. In all other cases the question is one of fact for the jury. The protection of infants extends sometimes to transactions completed after full age; the relief of heirs who have been induced to barter away their expectations is an example. “Catching bargains,” as they are called, throw on the persons claiming the benefit of them the burden of proving their substantial righteousness.

At common law a bargain made by an infant might be ratified by him after full age, and would then become binding. Lord Tenterden’s act required the ratification to be in writing. But now, by the Infants’ Relief Act 1874, “all contracts entered into by infants for the repayment of money lent or to be lent, or for goods supplied or to be supplied (other than contracts for necessaries), and all accounts stated, shall be absolutely void,” and “no action shall be brought whereby to charge any person upon any promise made after full age to pay any debt contracted during infancy, or upon any ratification made after full age of any promise or contract made during infancy, whether there shall or shall not be any new consideration for such promise or ratification after full age.” For some years after the passage of this statute highly conflicting views were held as to the meaning of the part of section 2 whereby it was enacted that “no action shall be brought whereby to charge any person ... upon any ratification made after full age of any promise or contract made during infancy.” Some authorities were of opinion that the section only applied to the three classes of contract made void by the previous section, viz. for goods supplied, money lent and on account stated. Others thought the effect to be that no contract, except for necessaries, made during infancy could be enforced after the infant came to full age. After several conflicting decisions it has been settled that both these views were wrong. Of the infant’s contracts voidable at common law there were two kinds. The first kind became void at full age, unless expressly ratified. The second kind were valid, unless repudiated within a reasonable time after full age was attained by the infant. The Infants’ Relief Act (section 2) strikes only at the first class and leaves the second untouched. Thus a promise of marriage made during infancy cannot be ratified so as to become actionable: but an infant’s marriage settlement, being of the second class, is valid, unless it is repudiated within a reasonable time after the infant attains full age. What is a reasonable time depends on all the circumstances of the case. In a case decided in 1893 a