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2006, Total Running Time 110 Minutes (2 x 55 Minutes)

How do you give a child the best chance in life?

Life at 1 is the first instalment in a landmark series that aims to unlock the secrets of child development by following 11 babies and their families for seven years. Made in conjunction with the long-term study in which 10,000 Australian children have been placed under a sociological and scientific microscope, this groundbreaking program focuses on those first formative years to try to discover what creates a happy, healthy child and makes us who we are.

Like those in the study, the 11 families in this series come from different walks of life. The challenges they face are both ordinary and extraordinary. As we follow the babies through milestone events and days of ordinary routine, we witness the impact on their lives of factors such as their parents' relationships, finances, work, health and education. We watch the fascinating interplay of nature and nurture. And we predict the future.

Our experts, families and the information collected by the largest study ever conducted on Australian children tell us what limits children’s growth and wellbeing and what makes them thrive. In Life at 1 we also conduct behavioural and biological experiments - with rather surprising results. We discover the personalities of our babies and we find out if the stress of modern living is too much stress for a child.

Join us for the beginning of an extraordinary journey...


Personality The first episode of Life at 1 begins, fittingly, with a conception. IVF is the last hope for 43-year-old Louise to have her own child. Her partner Shannon is unsure if he’s ready for the impact a baby will have on his lifestyle. Loulou’s birth is crunch time. Louise has dreamed of being the perfect mother for 10 years but reality proves to be fraught: an emergency caesarian followed by difficulties breastfeeding bring unexpected physical and emotional pain...and guilt.

Quintuplet Ben almost died while still in the womb. Born three months early and barely the size of a kitten, he’s the smallest and most fragile of his brothers and sisters. Like other premature, underweight children, he risks developing problems with hyperactivity, anxiety, depression and sociability, so for him—and his parents Kylie and Paul—the first 12 months of life are especially critical.

Battena and Bilal want their daughter Haleema to be a leader. However, the personalities of parents can determine that of their child, and Battena and Bilal confess they’re painfully shy. Both are children of Lebanese migrants who have worked hard to fulfil their parents’ dreams. They’re now juggling parenthood with finishing university degrees. And, as Muslims, they’re also feeling increasingly anxious about racial and religious intolerance, and how this will shape Haleema’s personality and the world in which she grows up.

Anastasija is a city kid whose parents Kathy and Darren are self-confessed control freaks. They’ve decided only members of their immediate family will look after her. It requires a meticulously planned shift system as both juggle demanding jobs and caring for their daughter. Kathy’s mother is there to lend a helping hand, meaning Anastasija is literally growing up in her mum’s footsteps.

Jara’na, on the other hand, is the youngest in a household of eight children plus mum Michelle and dad Paul. The older kids are showing him the ropes and at 14 months he’s quite physically advanced. Statistically, Indigenous children are at greater risk of falling behind in development once they get to school age, so what’s the prediction for Jara’na?

Join these five children in the first episode of Life at 1 to find out how their families and environments seem to be impacting on their emerging personalities. How do their experiences fit with the 10,000 children in the long-term study? We talk to the parents and to child development experts and watch the children in their daily lives. We also witness the intriguing results of two experiments designed to test how they react to new circumstances to learn if they’re bold or fearful, shy or confident.

How does the world we create for a child in the first year affect their personality? In Life at 1, we predict how the characteristics our babies have now might determine who they become.

Stress In the second episode of Life at 1 we see how children tackle the ordinary and extraordinary challenges life throws in their paths. In the process, we investigate some of the hottest topics in child development.

Just two years ago, Shine’s dad Alain was a single bloke. Now, after meeting Michelle on the internet, he’s the breadwinner for a household of seven. But Alain may soon be out of a job and they’re worried about their financial future.

Kim dreamed of being a stay-at-home mum but now motherhood is a reality she doesn’t think her family can survive without two incomes. Declan, her son with husband Patrick, attends childcare four days a week and has been going since he was six months old. Handing him over hasn’t been easy and Kim’s still not sure she’s made the right choice.

Joshua’s parents Garry and Steffi think they’ve found a balance that suits them. Garry quit his high-pressure job as a luxury car salesman to work in the family business growing fruit and vegetables. It’s given him a new outlook and he’s decided not to put pressure on his children to study and achieve. But Steffi, who has more traditional Chinese values, is not so sure this will give Joshua the best chance at life.

Wyatt’s caught up in the busy schedule of his teenage parents. First he’s off to crèche with mum Tamara, who’s still finishing her final year of high school. Then, as Tamara leaves for her job at the supermarket, he goes to his grandmother’s place, where dad Glenn picks him up after he finishes work. It’s a hectic but necessary routine if Tamara and Glenn are to realise their long-term goals.

When Bernadette was seven months pregnant with Sofia, her husband Anthony was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and given six months to live. Sofia’s first few months were chaotic as her dad underwent treatment. His cancer is now in remission, but Sofia’s world is about to go through more upheaval. Her mum will be gone for days at a time when she returns to work as a flight attendant.

Young Daniel’s life was turned upside-down when his brother Jamie almost drowned in a backyard accident, which left him severely brain damaged. Now, his mother Kath, who is completely blind in one eye, is losing sight in the other. Kath so far is displaying amazing resilience but dad Rodney is finding it harder to cope with the change in Jamie. What will the knock-on effects be for Daniel?

Join our six children to discover what impact these challenges are having on the families, and if parental stress is affecting the kids. How do their experiences fit with the 10,000 children in the long-term study? We talk to the parents and to child development experts, who explain what triggers stress in young lives and how continual stress can affect the growth of a child’s brain. We witness the children ride life’s rollercoaster, and we use cutting-edge science to test the saliva of our babies and parents for a stress hormone called cortisol. The results are revealing and sometimes surprising.

Is the stress of modern living too much stress for a child? In this episode of Life at 1, we begin to find out.

 A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Heiress Films. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.













Writer/Director: Catherine Marciniak

Narrator: Colin Friels

Producer: Jennifer Cummins

Year: 2006

Total Running Time: 110 Minutes

Classification: PG. Consumer advice: Mild themes.

Curriculum Links: Science (general and biology), Health & Human Development, Early Childhood, Community and Family Studies, Child and Family Studies, Developmental Psychology, Studies of Society and Environment and Sociology.


Life at 3

Myths of Childhood

Developing Child, The SERIES

SKU 200501000
Brand Film Australia

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