When do children start to sin?

At what age does a baptised child starting committing sins?

Venial and mortal.

If it is the age of reason when they have their first Holy Communion is it really possible for an eight year old to go to Hell?

Is it different for unbaptised children?


‘The age of reason’ is prudential and not something doctrinal. It is possible to validly receive Confirmation & Communion immediately after infant baptism.

Nobody knows when a person first sins personally and there is no numeric age for it, but they are born into original sin at the moment of their conception. In my private opinion, it makes the most sense to say that a person can sin at absolutely any age, and that their culpability increases over time.

Augustine somewhere wrote of observing two very young infants, one being nursed and the other not, and the look of envy, anger, and furious jealousy on the face of the one not then being nursed, even though his turn was coming, on seeing the other given the breast first.

Was that envy, anger and furious jealousy sin?

I’ve observed enough young children to conclude they are not perfect little angels, to understate things. One of the first words from a one and a half year old is frequently “NO”, shouted when the will is thwarted.

I think there is a difference between when they start to sin and when they must answer for it. All you can do is pray and train them in righteousness, including correcting them using methods they are sure not to like.

There is no truly objective answer. Each child is different. Most kids know the difference between good and evil by 7. Some much earlier.

My GUESS is that they start sinning with only venial sins. I believe MOST children are ALMOST incapable of mortal sin until at their tweens/teens.

Absolutely right.
I would like to mention that small children really want to please their parents, who stand in place of God for them, and it’s not hard to encourage them to be kind and helpful.

When they start saying “No!” around two, I would say it’s the first steps toward independence. Small children, rightly, are self centered, but this is not sin.


IMHO, for Augustine to read envy, anger, and jealousy into infants at the breast says more about Augustine than it does about that infant. Whatever happened to “sufficient reflection” and “full consent of the will?” Misbehavior and culpability are very different things.

Augustine’s writings have been contentious for centuries. The Orthodox hold him as Blessed never having called him a saint. orthodoxwiki.org/Augustine_of_Hippo

I think its all about how Jesus judges them, and I do not believe he will ever condemn a child to suffer an tormenting eternity in hell. :shrug:

Well said. I think when one is responsible is the key issue and it varies by child and circumstance. Your post reminds me of a Lutheran Pastor friend of mine who liked to use the example of a 2 year old of the effects of original sin from a Lutheran point of view.

Just look at a two year old having a temper tantrum he’d say. No one had to teach them to do that, it’s original sin. Interesting, I thought.


I don’t think it’s a matter of age. I don’t believe one can objectively say a specific age for all children. They are different personas, different environment, etc.

Can we begin to say that the homeless are suffering from Peter Pan syndrome? I prefer not to judge, and to hope they are treated more kindly.

On reading over the posts so far a better answer on my part would have been that we don’t know, in many cases.

Adults aren’t always culpable for what otherwise would be mortal sins due to circumstances, mental capacity, etc., so how can we be exact for children?

Trying to get an answer on this can lead to error, I think, because it is something God has not clearly revealed or otherwise given us the knowledge about. If I recall correctly, Limbo is not an accepted doctrine, but neither is there a satisfactory replacement. But then I don’t know, I am just guessing.

I think kids can start to sin very young, however, in nearly every case their sins are venial, as they don’t have full understanding of what they are doing or fully functioning emotional regulations skills.

“Nearly every case?” I thought the absence of understanding by definition ruled out a sin being mortal.

That he is on par with the latest brain & behavioral science.

Kindergarten. I helped out a class at our facility. They were all cute as they could be, but some did have issues even at that age.:sad_yes:

Like insulting 4th century saints for being on par with the latest brain & behavioral science.

Culpability is entirely up in the air, but the effects of sin itself are present at day 1. Nobody here is saying the very small children are mortal sinners, including St Augustine. You need to lighten up with your attitude.

Please explain…

Canon Law:

Can. 97 §1 A person who has completed the eighteenth year of age, has attained majority; below this age, a person is a minor.

§2 A minor who has not completed the seventh year of age is called an infant and is considered incapable of personal responsibility; on completion of the seventh year, however, the minor is presumed to have the use of reason.

Unfortunately, there are children (mostly in the 7-15 range) who posess enough understanding that what they are doing is deeply wrong and do it knowing full well. This is pretty rare though. It is possible to a child to have a complete lack of empathy.

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