Now they're seven

How do you give a child the best chance in life? This question was the starting point for ABC1’s long-running documentary, The Life Series.

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

This question was the starting point for ABC1’s long-running documentary, The Life Series, which chronicles the life stories of a group of Australian children as they grow from infancy to adolescence, recording their most important life events as they unfold. Every two years the film-makers revisit these children and their families to gain an in-depth snapshot of their lives, and conduct illuminating behavioural experiments in the purpose built Life Lab.

The children have been filmed since they were babies – some even took their first breaths of life on camera. They’re now in their second year of school, and for all of the kids, there have been significant changes and hurdles in their lives, including the divorce of their parents, starting school, the birth of siblings, and family tragedies.

The child particpants at age seven.
The child particpants at age seven. 

Now, with the kids having reached the critical age of seven, this two-part series, Life at 7, explores their first tentative steps towards independence and self-identity, examining the influence of temperament and peers.

 The Jesuits once famously said, “Give me the child until he is seven, and I will show you the man.” But it wasn’t only the Jesuits who recognised the age of seven as a crucial milestone in a child’s life. The Spartans of ancient Greece sent their children away from home to learn how to become soldiers at the age of seven, and the Prophet Muhammad once said “be gentle with your children in the first seven years, and in the following seven years be firm.”

Why, then, has seven traditionally been such a pivotal age in a child’s life, and what did the Jesuits, the Spartans and the Prophet Muhammad all see in the potential of seven-year-olds? Perhaps it was precisely that – potential. At this age, a child’s life is about to be written.

As seven-year-olds try to make sense of their ever-expanding world, they stand at one of life’s most important social and physiological crossroads. Before them lies the blueprint for their future. Things will change, grow and become far more complex, but the fundamental notions of society and how to operate in it are being etched into them everyday. At seven, these children are beginning to grapple with the crucial question that may stay with them for the rest of their lives: Who am I?

As the lives of these children unfold, we examine the very essence of what it takes to make us all thriving, creative and happy human beings.

Life at 7 airs on ABC1 on Tuesday, 16th & 23rd October 2012 at 8.30pm