How Are Social Security Benefits Calculated for Each Child?

Social Security assists workers and families with a monthly annuity payment for three major life events -- retirement, disability or death of a worker. Social Security bases benefits on work history. A worker must have sufficient work history to qualify for retirement, disability or survivors benefits for family members to qualify. Minor children and disabled children may receive Social Security benefits based on the parent's average income over a lifetime.


When a worker retires, dies or becomes disabled, a spouse and children may qualify for Social Security benefits if the worker qualifies.Ten years or 40 quarters of employment paying Social Security taxes qualifies the worker; fewer quarters or credits may also qualify a young disabled worker or a deceased worker. A child under the age of 18, or 19 if in secondary school, may receive a monthly benefit. A disabled child may receive Social Security benefits based on the work history of the parent.


A qualifying child can receive up to 50 percent of a retired or disabled parent’s benefit. A child receives 75 percent of a deceased parent’s benefit. Multiple claimants may reduce these amounts. If a parent collects Social Security before full retirement age and then dies, Social Security bases all family survivor benefits on the early retirement figure. Full retirement age for workers born from 1943 to 1954 is 66. Early retirement is between 62 and 66 for these workers. Social Security reduces the worker’s retirement benefits by about 25 percent for early retirement at 62.

Disabled Child

A child’s benefit ends at age 18 unless the child is still in high school. Social Security evaluates a disabled child at 18 by adult disability standards and may qualify the child as an adult who receives benefits on the parent’s work history. A permanently disabled child may receive benefits for years and Social Security calls these adult child benefits. The child must remain unmarried and the disability must start prior to age 22 for the disabled child benefit to extend beyond age 18.

Maximum Benefit

Social Security calculates a maximum benefit for all family members. Total monthly benefits paid cannot exceed this amount. If there are several children in the family, Social Security reduces all except the worker’s benefit by a percentage. All who qualify receive benefits but at a reduced amount to keep the total below the maximum allowable benefit. An ex-spouse’s benefit does not count in the total if she does not care for the worker’s minor child.