Life at 7

Real stories ... the children of <em>Life at 7</em>.
Real stories ... the children of Life at 7

The success of the developmental documentary series Life at ... may see its protagonists followed into their teens.

Imagine having a six-month-old baby and deciding, on the spur of the moment, to apply for your child to be part of a documentary series about their development. Then, 6½ years later, you have a film crew in your house - again - recording your family's every move for a prime-time show on ABC1.

That's the reality for the parents and children involved in Life at 7 - the next instalment in an Australian documentary series that explores childhood development. ''When you've got a six-month-old, your first [child], you're thinking a bit differently to how you're thinking when they're seven,'' says Kim, one of the parents involved in the ABC project, who laughs politely about the intrusion on family life. Her son, Declan, is one of the children who has featured in the series since the age of one.

''He was the apple of our eye and … I think I just wanted to share it, or celebrate that,'' Kim says. ''It's become a lot bigger than what I probably ever imagined and I've been really proud to be part of it.''

The children of <em>Life at 7</em>.
The children of Life at 7

As hard as it has been to show the realities of parenting - and children's varying levels of behaviour - on television, she says it feels like a good reflection of the job she's doing.

''It's probably not a bad barometer for every parent, if everyone had an imaginary film crew … if you can judge what you're doing behind closed doors as if you'd be happy for the world to know what goes on, then perhaps you're doing the right thing,'' Kim says.

The families involved in the Life at … series initially signed their children up to the age of nine, to be filmed every two years (from the age of one) in various parts of Australia. But such has been the popularity of the series, the producer, Jennifer Cummins from Heiress Films, says it may even extend to the teenage years.

''It is an open book,'' she says. But it depends on the goodwill of the families involved, of course.

As for life at seven, the program directors say it's an important milestone. At this age, a child develops a self-conscious identity, or ‘self-concept’ – they’re becoming aware of who they are, who they want to be, and what they value.

The two episodes in this installment will cover temperament and peer relationships. How has temperament at babies determined the children they've become? And how does that temperament impact their social skills? The results are intruiguing. 

Life at 7 airs tonight (Tuesday) on ABC1 at 8.30pm.

Watch the trailer below: