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Most creatures, including dwarves, start out as infants, then after a certain number of years become children, and then finally become adults. For dwarves, childhood starts after reaching 1 year of age, and continues until they are 12 years old.
In fortress mode, some migrant dwarves are married and may bring children. Children who immigrate to your fortress might be any age from 2-12. You can determine the age of any child by viewing their thoughts screen, which will give you the child's exact age as well as their date of birth. You can see this information regardless if the child was born in your fortress or came to it as a migrant with its parents.
"Resident" female dwarves may also give birth to children. This can be stopped or reduced by editing the BABY_CHILD_CAP setting in the init file. Dwarves even can have miscarriages, which causes an unhappy thought for the mother but not for the father. Talking to a child causes a good thought. Children are known to start parties, being idle much of the time.
Much of goblin society is centered around stealing the children of other races. The appropriate response to a baby-snatcher appearing on the map is the judicious use of a war hammer.
When children are born, the game will pause and announce the arrival of the baby. The mother will cancel whatever task they are in the middle of (even sleep) to seek their infant. They will immediately resume whatever task they were doing before the child was born. Dwarven mothers can also give birth to twins or triplets. Babies are looked after by their mother, who will continue working with their baby. Babies usually share a tile with their mother. Babies do not have to be born in beds, but are born wherever the mother happens to be; the birth will interrupt the mother's current action. If the mother is sleeping or hospitalized, however, the baby will be free to roam as it pleases. An emancipated baby acts in a similar manner to a raving mad adult, wandering freely over the map without any sense of self-preservation.
If babies are separated from their mothers (say, for example, the mother gets put in jail, goes for a swim, gets injured and then carried off to the hospital), the baby will crawl around aimlessly. It will be fed and watered[Verify] as requested (rather like a semi-mobile injured dwarf), and as long as it's not within reach of a hostile creature, then no harm will be done to it. 'Job cancellation spam' can be generated as the baby is seen by the game to be 'insane' (example: "Urist McBabyname, Dwarven baby, cancels Clean Self: Too Insane"), but once it reaches childhood (at 12 months), that will stop, and they go about their business like any other dwarven child.
The gender of a baby is determined upon birth - reloading a save might get a baby of the other gender.
After giving birth, it is possible for the mother to become pregnant again immediately, and give birth to another child nine months later.
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Much like chinchillas who are born fully furred, Dwarven babies are born fully bearded. One may assume that this is a bug, but instead may be intended. The booze running through the mother's systems helps to promote beard growth, and in fact, while fetal alcohol syndrome exists in humans and elves, alcohol serves only to strengthen the Dwarven baby. Plump helmets in particular are known for promoting healthy beard growth. This, in turn, has given rise to the belief that dwarves just spring out of holes in the ground! Which is, of course, ridiculous.
In fortress mode, children cannot be assigned any labor, but they will perform a few simple tasks on their own:
- socializing like starting parties;
- removing constructions (such as walls, floors, ramps);
- eating, drinking, and sleeping as necessary;
- harvesting crops, if the 'All dwarves harvest' order is on. This will also increase their grower skill. Naturally, almost all children will grow up with at least proficient in growing.
- when they want to, storing their items. Yelling at them to clean their room has no effect.
- filling designated ponds;[Verify]
- children can enter strange moods.
Children may not be assigned to the nobility. However, they can be assigned bedrooms.
As an oversight in programming, children's parents can become so preoccupied with finding their children that they can die of thirst.