Child of Our Time

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Not to be confused with A Child of Our Time, an oratorio (1944) by Michael Tippett

Child of Our Time
Created by Tessa Livingstone
Starring Professor Robert Winston,
The children and their parents
Producer(s) BBC
Open University
Running time 1hr
Original channel BBC One
Original run 2000 – present

Child of Our Time is a documentary commissioned by the BBC, co-produced with the Open University and presented by Robert Winston. It follows the lives of 25 children, born at the beginning of the 21st century, as they grow from infancy, through childhood, and on to becoming young adults.

The aim of the series is to build up a coherent and scientifically accurate picture of how the genes and the environment of growing children interact to make a fully formed adult. A large portion of the series is made up of experiments designed to examine these questions. The main topic under consideration is: "Are we born or are we made?". The nature of the family in contemporary Britain is also addressed.

The project is planned to run for 20 years, following its subjects from birth until the age of 20. During the first half of its run a set of about three or four episodes was produced annually. After 2008 new episodes became less frequent, and in 2011 there was some doubt about the future of the programme, including from Winston himself.[1] In February 2013 it was announced that the series would resume, with two new episodes presented by Winston.[2] Rather than the psychological experiments of previous series, these episodes focused on the first interviews with the participating children themselves and their families.

The children[edit]

The 25 children that feature in the programme were born to 22 families between September 1999 and February 2000. They were chosen in order to represent a wide range of genetic, social, geographical and ethnic backgrounds. They are:

  • Alex and Ivo: Identical twins Alex and Ivo Lloyd-Young were born eleven weeks early to parents Berenice Lloyd and Alastair Young. They live in Glasgow.
  • Calvin: Born ten weeks early to parents Helen Kirkham and Andy Pearson, Calvin has an older sister, Lauren. Helen and Andy have now split up.
  • Charlie: Charlie's mother Toni was sixteen when she fell pregnant with her daughter Charlie. Toni's mother and grandmother also had babies early. Toni split up with Charlie's father before Charlie was born and fell in love with electrician Rob Plaster. Rob treats Charlie like his own daughter and he and Toni have had two more children, Kayla and Alex.
  • Charlotte: Charlotte Langeveld was born as a result of IVF treatment to parents Richard and Jacqui. She had a twin brother, Alexander, who was stillborn. Her parents married three months after the birth of Charlotte's sister Jasmine, but have now divorced. They try to remain amicable for the sake of their daughters.
  • Charlotte: Charlotte Goldsmith was born in Essex. She has one older brother and her parents Emma and Paul separated six months after her birth.
  • Ethan: Before Ethan's birth his mother Kerri lost two female babies; one was miscarried and one was still born. She also lost Ethan's twin through miscarriage in the third month of pregnancy. Ethan loves playing computer games but struggles at school and has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Asperger syndrome. Ethan had a problem with his speech which affected his ability to make friends in school, but it resolved itself soon after. Ethan and his family live in Northern Ireland.
  • Eve: Eve's parents, Tim and Caroline Scarborough, are Evangelical Christians who tried for years to conceive a baby through IVF but were unsuccessful. Eve was unplanned and conceived naturally. Her parents were delighted but Caroline suffered post-natal depression. It was announced at the end of the episode The Age of Stress that Caroline, Eve's mother, had died from cancer.
  • Helena: Born at just twenty-five weeks, Helena is the sole survivor of triplets. Because of her premature birth her doctors believed she would have major respiratory and developmental problems. Helena did not crawl until eighteen months and did not speak her first word until two years. However Helena learned to walk, talk, run and join in with everything and became advanced intellectually. She is now happy, confident and bossy and a loving older sister to Bella. Helena's parents decided to separate after 13 years of marriage.
  • Het: Born to parents Vijay and Tejal in a close-knit, extended family, Het talks in both English and her first language of Gujarati. In 2005 Het's mother became pregnant and had a baby in October. Before this her parents were considering sending her to an Indian boarding school, but for now have considered otherwise.
  • James: James' mother Carol comes from a very deprived background and suffers from a mild learning difficulty. She split up from the father of her elder child Bernie and James's father. James has asthma and was kidnapped at age five by Carol's ex-boyfriend, Ian.
  • Jamie: After suffering post-natal depression with her two eldest children, Sharon Craven was sterilised; it did not work and she became pregnant with Jamie, who was slow to learn to talk and speak. Doctors diagnosed a hearing problem so had grommets put in his ears, after which he blossomed. Jamie was diagnosed with diabetes aged just four years old. His condition needs constant monitoring and frequent injections.
  • Mabel, Alice and Phoebe: Non-identical triplets Mabel, Alice and Phoebe have three elder siblings. Their parents Nigel and Tracey Baller claim to be calm and easygoing with all the children. The triplets have developed different temperaments; Mabel is a tomboy, Alice is dominant and Phoebe is quiet and mischievous.
  • Matthew: The younger brother of Robert and the second son of Kathryn and Graham Singleton, Matthew is sweet, slightly shy and anxious.
  • Megan: Megan is the daughter of Rhodri, a Welsh farmer, and Gaynor Davies. She has one older brother and sister.
  • Nathan: A cheery, enthusiastic boy who is being brought up by parents Ruth and Richard Price. Nathan was a big baby and is being brought up by his parents with strong values. The family spent several years living a self-sufficient, organic lifestyle in the countryside, but eventually moved to be closer to the school Nathan is in.
  • Parys: Alison Lapper is the single mother of Parys. She is disabled, born with no arms and very short legs. While pregnant with Parys, she had casts made of her body to create a giant marble statue of her. Artist Marc Quinn created this statue, which was placed on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square in 2005. Alison is an artist who has also written an autobiography entitled 'My Life in My Hands.' Parys was born by caesarean section and did not sleep well as a baby. He has had a lot of carers helping Alison take care of him over the years and has a strong bond with his mother.
  • Rebecca: A very small child whose parents Mark and Gill Saunders are Jewish. Rebecca has an older brother and likes dressing up in pink.
  • Rhianna: The only child of Tanya Knights and Andy Lees, Rhianna is fascinated by nature and history. Although Rhianna was a happy baby and easy to care for, she grew into a very anxious little girl; so much so that her parents took her to see a child psychiatrist. There was tension in Tanya and Andy's marriage and they displayed very different parenting styles; Rhianna was picking up on all this. Nothing seriously wrong was found with her and Tanya and Andy are trying to work through their problems.
  • Rubin: Rubin was born at thirty seven weeks and rushed to intensive care. He had to be hospitalised again at two months old as he contracted pneumonia. Rubin is the third of four boys; mother Debbie Bayfield was single for a while but married the father of her fourth son. In 2008, he gained a place at the Choral school in Westminster.
  • Taliesin: Taliesin is the second child and first son of Olivia and Robin Stevenson who split up before his birth but got back together again. Olivia became a teenage mother with Taliesin's sister, Emily, and left education behind at an early age after being bullied. She hopes her children will be happier than her at school.
  • Tyrese: The third child and only son of Marie and Jamal Hakeem, Tyrese is determined and outgoing, like his mother. Marie suffers from dyslexia and wants Tyrese to learn about race and racism. Marie is concerned that Tyrese will fall into trouble; she believes that black boys find it much harder to be successful in life and so is determined he does not fall into the stereotype. She split up with Jamal when Tyrese was three. He lives in north Birmingham.
  • William: Keen on sport and outperforming, as well as harassing his older brother, William was born by caesarean and lives in a small town in Yorkshire.

Episode guide[edit]

Series One (2000)

  1. Babies

Series Two (2001)

  1. The Personality Test
  2. Tomboy or Sissy?
  3. Brain Magic

Series Three (2002)

  1. Thanks for the Memories
  2. Power Struggles
  3. Active or Idle

Series Four (2004)

  1. Zero to Hero
  2. Read My Lips
  3. The Making of Me

Series Five (2005)

  1. Identity Crisis
  2. State of Play
  3. What are Dads for?
  4. Tried and Tested

Series Six (2006)

  1. Happiness
  2. Flesh and Blood
  3. Right and Wrong
  4. Your Recipe for Success

Series Seven (2007)

  1. The Will to Win
  2. Fitting In or Standing Out
  3. Killing Creativity

Series Eight (2008)

  1. The Divide of the Sexes
  2. The Age of Stress
  3. 24 Hours
  4. A Revolution in Childhood (BBC4)

Series Nine (2010)

  1. The Big Personality Test (broadcast on 30 May)
  2. The Big Personality Test (broadcast on 31 May)

Series Ten (2013)

  1. Growing Up (broadcast on 27 February)
  2. Changing Families (broadcast on 28 February)

Child of Our Time - The Children's Stories[edit]

In 2006, there was a spin-off series showing a 30-minute programme each week on one child and their story so far from birth to the age of 6. The programmes did not add anything significant to what had been shown in the previous six years of the series; they were essentially clip shows.

See also[edit]

  • Up Series (a similar series of documentary films that have followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964).


  1. ^ Sherwin, Adam (28 May 2011). "Winston fumes at axing of 'Child of Our Time'". The Independent. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  2. ^ "OU on the BBC: Child of Our Time 2013". The Open University. 18 February 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 

External links[edit]