Myths of Childhood


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1997, Total Running Time 165 Minutes

Today we are more concerned about children and more confused about childhood than ever before, but many of our ideas about childhood are based on myths. In this provocative three part series, children and parents from Australia, the USA and the United Kingdom talk about their experiences. Home movies, photographs and scenes from TV and cinema show the childhoods we imagine. Bestselling authors like Penelope Leach, Thomas Moore, Martin Seligman and Marina Warner discuss changing ideas about childhood and the raising of children.

Myths of Childhood confronts the idea that children are innocent, asks why we blame childhood for adult unhappiness and questions the ambitions of parents who strive to be perfect.


Innocence (Part 1) The romantic idea that children are innocent is at the heart of what we believe childhood should be. We are outraged when this innocence is violated by any form  of child abuse or exploitation. But in our efforts to protect children have we gone too far? Does our sentimental view of childhood blind us to the realities of children’s lives?

Damage (Part 2) Today we search childhood memories for the causes of our adult discontent. Damage done to us as children is blamed for everything from alcoholism to depression. But how important is childhood in the making of adult personality? 

Perfection (Part 3) In the era of psychology, contemporary parents have assumed responsibility for the emotional well being, self esteem and happiness of their children. But do parents expect too much of themselves and their children. Is it possible to have a perfect childhood?

A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

FREE Teachers' Notes - Download here


Writer/Director: Sarah Gibson

Producer: Anna Grieve

Narrator: Wendy Hughes

Year: 1997

Total Running Time: 165 Minutes (3 x 55 minute episodes)

Classification: Exempt from classification

Curriculum Links: Child counselling; Early Childhood Studies; Youth, Family and Parenting Studies; Health & Human Development; Human Services; Psychotherapy; Developmental Psychology; Social Sciences. Levels: upper secondary, tertiary.


Life at 1

Life at 3


SKU 199400300
Brand Film Australia

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