Learn all about the child archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Innocent archetype.
What is the Child Archetype?
The child archetype is one of the most familiar archetypes in all cultures.
We have all had a childhood and so the child archetype is something which is integral to everyone’s nature to a greater or lesser degree.
The beginning point for the development of each individual, the child archetype can be seen as the innocent part of each of use which sets up our earliest expectations of family, friends, society and our safety with each of them.
Child Archetype Characteristics & Traits
- The archetypal child’s positive qualities are those of innocence, playfulness, spontaneity, creativity, vibrance and energy.
- Their innocence can provide them with a healthy psyche, leaving them free of many of the stresses and strains of life.
- However, they can also be prone to naivety, ignorance, stubbornness, sulkiness, moodiness and over-dependence on those around them.
- They may not see danger where it lurks.
- They may throw tantrums and seek consolation from those around them.
- Their presence can be revitalizing but also draining.
- The responsibilities of adulthood do not sit easily for those who tend towards the child archetype, preferring instead to seek out the more light-hearted and playful experiences which life has to offer.
- When finally they do have to face life’s difficulties and challenges the archetypal child feels unprepared for them and can become overwhelmed, refusing the grow up and take on the responsibilities they ought to.
Child Archetype & Jung
The child archetype was first suggested by psychoanalyst Carl Jung, one which he felt was a milestone in the process of individuation.
He believed that the child archetype was useful in allowing an individual to strengthen their link to their own past as well as in the recollection of childhood memories and events. He also believed that the child archetype was representative of an individual’s future potential and was indicative of how they would mature psychologically.
Child Archetype Examples
The most famous example of the child archetype in literature is JM Barrie’s Peter Pan, a character and story which has now become symbolic of youthful innocence and escapism in its tale of a boy who never grows up.
More recently in literature and film the character of Harry Potter has become emblematic of the strength of the archetypal child in the form of a young boy wizard and his friends who battle against evil and come out victorious.
Anne Frank can also be considered an example of the child archetype from modern culture – an innocent child who, because her life was taken away from her by the forces of evil in the world, never had the opportunity to grown up and so in the minds of the world remains ever young and pure.
Further reading on the child archetype includes: