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Family & Social Welfare

Young people


As children grow older and more mature they acquire various rights, but at the same time they need to assume individual responsibility and to fulfil their obligations.

"Children aged 13 to 16 may not be out of doors after 22:00, unless on their way home from a recognised event organised by a school, sports organisation or youth club. During the period from 1 May to 1 September, children are permitted to stay outdoors an additional two hours. The age limits for this provision refer to the year of birth, not to the date of birth.” Excerpts from the Child Protection Act.

Rights and obligations

Rights indicate what the individual can demand from society, and the obligations indicate what demands society can make on the individual.

Among the rights of the individual person are the rights to receive support, of free speech, freedom of opinion, and to citizenship.

Adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 have an obligation to obey the instructions of their parents, to respect the opinions of others and to obey the laws of society.

Legal competence is obtained at the age of 18. This is the age of majority, when a young person may dispose of his/her property and make decisions with respect to his/her residence, but at the same time loses the right to receive support.

A parent may be court ordered to pay support to his/her child for education or vocational training until the child reaches the age of 20.

Study and Work


Children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 16 are legally obligated to attend primary school, but school tuition is free.

This education is concluded with a primary-school examination, and those who pass the primary-school test may apply for secondary school.

Moreover, those who have reached the age of 16, but have not graduated from a primary school, are entitled to begin studies in a secondary school and to continue their studies until the age of 18.

Registration of secondary-school students is done on the website of The Educational Gateway, for both autumn term and spring term each year.  

Information concerning specialised schools, special education departments, vocational study programmes and other courses for children and adolescents with disabilities can be found on the website of The Educational Gateway.


Children receiving compulsory education may only be hired for light work.

Children under 13 years of age may only take part in cultural and art events and be involved in sports and advertising activities with the permission of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Children between 13 and 14 years of age may be employed for light work, unless these jobs are considered dangerous or physically demanding.

15- to 17-year-olds are permitted to work up to 8 hours. per day, or 40 hours. per week during the off-school seasons (school holidays).

Night work by children and adolescents is not permitted.

Most large local communities operate summer work schools or youth employment for a few weeks during the summer for the older primary-school students (aged 14 and 15).

Some employment agencies specialise in assisting young people with finding work.

Young people from all over the Nordic Countries have the opportunity to apply for summer jobs in the neighbouring countries.

Sexual maturity and sex

The age of sexual maturity appears to be controlled by inherited and environmental factors.

Sexual maturity seems to have been setting in at an earlier stage, and the main reasons for this are thought to be improved nutrition and better health services.

It is a criminal violation under the penal code to have sexual intercourse or other sexual relations with a child below the age of 15.

Alcohol and drugs

Alcohol and drug consumption can have serious consequences.

For the most part alcohol consumption starts with experimentation, but rarely becomes a big problem. But anyone who has experimented with these materials has crossed a certain limit, and there is a risk that this experimentation will become an addiction.

Addiction is defined in the following manner by the World Health Organisation:

  1. A strong craving or a compulsory need for the substance.

  2. Out-of-control use. More frequent, greater quantities, or over a longer period than intended.

  3. Physical withdrawal symptoms when consumption is reduced.

  4. Aukið þol – meira magn þarf til að ná sömu áhrifum og áður.

  5. Greater time involved in getting the substance, consuming it, or recovering after consumption.

  6. Consumption continues in spite of physical or mental damage.

Addiction is present if three of the six above symptoms have been present for a certain period during the last twelve months.

Bulimia and anorexia

Eating disorders may become very serious and life-threatening.

Patients suffer from a morbid fear of becoming fat, in spite of having a normal weight or even being thin.

This condition is accompanied by mental and physical indisposition, and the patient needs treatment in order to recover.

Young girls are most at risk from this condition, but boys and individuals of all ages are prone to it.

Frequent precursors to eating disorders are dieting, traumatic shocks of various kinds, difficulties with friends, depression and other illnesses.

It is urgent that measures are quickly adopted and assistance is sought if an eating disorder is developing.

Quite often the individual does not realise that there is something wrong, and that is why families must be alert to the symptoms of the disease.

Laws and regulations