Child of Our Time is a Documentary programme.

Child of Our Time is a 4 star programme

Image for the Documentary programme "Child of Our Time"

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Child of Our Time

Professor Robert Winston returns to BBC ONE for the latest glimpse into the lives of the 25 babies taking part in a unique experiment to find out what makes people who they are. Following a new generation as they develop from the womb into adulthood, this series follows the children's growth and development over a 20-year period.

The "Child Of Our Time" series seeks to find out where the balance of nature and nurture lies and explores issues of personality, gender and intellect, tackling such questions as whether humans are genetically programmed from birth and if the environment has a major effect on development.

In the first programme "Personality Test" the babies have reached the age of one and their basic personalities are already fixed. There are two main character types and everyone really is one or the other - either bold or timid.

The actual personalities of the babies are less easy to predict since character is not only formed through inherited genes, but by what happens to someone, particularly in the first year of life.

"Is our personality the same as it was when we were children? Are we the free spirits we think we are? Or are we doomed to be just like our parents?" asks Professor Winston.

A mother's anxiety can markedly affect her baby since the umbilical cord carries her stress hormones to the foetus. Scientists have discovered that stress can affect a baby's personality and the most likely time for it to happen is in the last half of pregnancy and the first four months of life.

Professor Winston meets Nigel and Trace( Baller from the West Midlands and their triplets, Alice, Mabel and Phoebe, who all have very different personalities.

Caroline and Tim Scarborough from Dudley have a new daughter, Eve. Caroline suffered stress during pregnancy due to the loss of her mother, followed by postnatal depression. Professor Winston talks to the couple about what impact this rocky start could have on the baby.

Professor Winston also helps Neil and Gillian Roberts from Yorkshire and baby William. Gillian is concerned that her lack of self-esteem is genetic and is keen to instil confidence in her children.

Alison Lapper, a disabled artist from Sussex. finds out how tough it is being a single parent - particularly as her son, Parys, is a very energetic child. Meanwhile, in Colchester, Emma and Paul Goldsmith experience marriage difficulties and eventually split up. Emma considers what effect this has on their one-year-old, Charlotte.

In the second episode, "Tomboy or Siss?", the babies have reached the age of one and they have already discovered the importance of sex. Professor Winston reveals that: "Gender affects our lives and who we are more than anything else." In a series of revealing experiments, Professor Winston demonstrates how it is possible to find and change man's placing on the gender scale. The length of fingers and the way people draw a bike prove to be vital clues, he discovers. Cross dressing the babies also reveals a surprising change in attitude of the adults who interact with the young children.

Parents have a fundamental role in influencing how their children grow up and develop into adult human beings. Love or neglect may make a difference to the happiness, sense of humour and possible shyness, but can it change their gender role?

Professor Winston meets Marie and Jamal Hakeem from Birmingham who believe in equality of the sexes and are determined that their son, Tyrese, won't become a stereotypical man. In Hertfordshire, Richard Langeveld and Jackie Burke come to terms with the loss of one of their twins, Alexander; Charlotte his twin sister survived. Kerri and Jonathan Kerr from Northern Ireland introduce their son Ethan - in a house full of men, Kerri is determined that her next child will be a girl. Tanya Knights and Andy Lees from North Yorkshire attempt to swap parenting roles as Andy tries to become a house-husband to daughter Rhianna. And, over in the Welsh hills, Rhodri Davies and his wife, Gaynor, represent a traditional family environment in which to bring up thier daughter, Megan, who seems to be showing signs of being a tomboy.

Professor Winston reveals that while biology is a very powerful force, ultimately, when it comes down to gender roles, the most powerful influence of all is their upbringing.

In the third and final programme of the current series, "Brain Magic", Professor Robert Winston explores intelligence and asks: "What does it take to be clever?" He examines the experiences that form the brain in babyhood and asks: "Can our intelligence be increased or decreased by what happens to us in life? And is it possible to make a person permanently cleverer by special treatment during the first months of life?"

"Child Of Our Time" reveals that the first 18 months of a baby's life is a time of enormous brain growth when every experience contributes to the formation of permanent lines of communication between different parts of the brain. In that first year, the brain will grow to three quarters the size of an adult's and 1.8 million new connections between nerve cells are created every second. Professor Winston investigates the factors that govern intelligence in children, from the size and weight of a baby when it is born, to its early exposure to music.

How will baby Helena's very early birth and the premature death of her two siblings affect her? Child Of Our Time talks to her parents, Jeanette and Barry Young, from Gloucestershire, about her progress over the last year. The programme also meets Ruth and Richard Price who have set up home in rural Scotland. Nathan is their second child and they hope that he will inherit the best of both of them. Ruth is short and plump whilst Richard is skinny and tall and his intelligence puts him in the top two per cent of the population. So who will Nathan turn out to be like?

Carol and her partner, Jamie, live in a council flat in Peckham with their new-born son, James, and Carol's two-year-old daughter, Bernie. In spite of their own unsettled childhoods, they are determined to make a stable and stimulating home for their children.

The programme follows the family through hard times as social workers keep a close watch on how Carol is coping. Opera singer Kathryn and advertising executive Graham's second son, Matthew, was surrounded by music in the womb. The programme explores what positive benefits this might have.

Bernice and Alistair from Glasgow have identical twins, No and Alexander. The boys are small, with similarly small appetites, and Bernice is worried that this could effect their development. Professor Winston is keen to find out if there will be differences between the identical boys.

The series returns next year, in 2002, when the babies are two years old.

Genre: Documentary

4/5 Stars

Main Cast

Sacha Baveystock