The Child is an important archetype in Jungian psychology, first suggested by Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung. Recently, author Caroline Myss suggested Child, amongst four the Survival Archetypes (Victim, Prostitute, and Saboteur), present in all of us. It ranges from "childish to childlike longing for the innocent, regardless of age", as mentioned in her work, Sacred Contracts, which talk of the presence many aspects of the Child archetype, ranging from the Wounded Child, Abandoned or Orphan Child, Dependent Child, Magical/Innocent Child, Nature Child, to the Divine Child and Eternal Child [1][2][3]


Jung placed 'the child (including the child hero)' in a list of archetypes incorporating 'the chief among milestones of the individuation process'.[4] Jungians exploring the hero myth have noted that 'over and over again one hears a tale describing the hero's miraculous but humble birth', and have considered that '"it represents our efforts to deal with the problem of growing up, aided by the illusion of an eternal fiction"'.[5] Thus for Jung, '"the child is potential future"', with the archetype 'symbolising the whole personality in its development from primordial unconsciousness to ego consciousness to self'.[6]

Others have warned however of the dangers posed to the parents by 'the "archetype of the Divine Child" emotional pull toward imagining an extraordinary potential contained in the infant'.[7] Where this becomes too strong, 'the child is co-opted into an arrangement whereby he or she is to provide the parents with a certain magic...the Divine Child'.[8] The growing child 'caught up in the complex [as] adult believes that she or he is especially wonderful, as wonderful as an idealized child...unable to see the problems with feeling like the king - superior, special, or unique'.[9]

Even where impacting less acutely, the archetype may produce 'a man who remains too long in adolescent psychology, generally associated with a strong unconscious attachment to the mother (actual or symbolic). Positive traits are spontaneity and openness to change';[10] negative, the emergence of a 'superficially entrancing but basically immature child-man who is incapable of commitment or identification with the Divine Child, Mama's darling'.[11] His 'female counterpart is the puella, an "eternal girl" with a corresponding attachment to the father-world'.[12]

Prospective and retrospective

Jung was always concerned with the possibility of one's over-identification with the persona - with the man who 'violently sundered himself from his original character in the interests of some arbitrary persona more in keeping with his ambitions. He has thus become unchildlike and artificial, and has lost his roots'.[13] Some remedy can be provided by the way 'the "child" archetype has a central part to play in assuaging the fear of loss of connection with the past'[14]: in its retrospective aspect, 'one of the functions of the child archetype is to recall the experiences and emotions of childhood'[15] to the adult mind.

Conversely, however, in its prospective role, 'for Jung the child archetype was a living symbol of future potentialities that bring balance, unity, and vitality to the conscious personality'[16] - so that 'the mythic child symbolizes the lifelong process of psychological maturation'.[17]

In literature and media

The child archetype is portrayed in literature in various ways. It can take the form of a child who displays adult-like qualities giving, for example, wise advice to their friends or vice-versa (like the character Raymond in the film Rain Man).

More generally, 'the child star can be conceptualized as a modern manifestation of the ancient archetype of the wonder-child'.[18]


  • Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes
  • Linus van Pelt from Peanuts
  • Tommy Pickles from Rugrats
  • Butters Stotch from South Park
  • Andrew "Ender" Wiggin from Ender's Game
  • Stewie Griffin from Family Guy
  • Lisa Simpson from The Simpsons.
  • Jake Chambers from The Dark Tower
  • Krishna from Srimad Bhagavatham
  • Corwin from Roger Zelazny's The Chronicles of Amber novels (Corwin evolves through several child archetypes, from wounded child through divine.)


  1. The Four Archetypes of Survival Caroline Myss.
  2. A Gallery of Archetypes Caroline Myss.
  3. The Divine Child archetype in Jungian psychological McGurn, P. A. (1998). The Divine Child archetype in Jungian psychological thought and practice.(Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 1998). UMI no. 9923263.
  4. Jung, in J. Jacobi, Complex, Archetype, Symbol (London 1959) p. 113-4
  5. Paul Radin, quoted in Joseph L. Henderson, "Ancient Myths and Modern Man", Carl Jung ed., Man and his Symbols (London 1978) p. 101-3
  6. Robert A. Segal, Theorizing about Myth (1999) p. 84
  7. Polly Young-Eisendrath, Women and Desire (London 2000) p. 106
  8. Young-Eisendrath, p. 107
  9. Young-Eisendrath, p. 118
  10. Mario Jacoby, The Analytic Encounter (Canada 1984) p. 118
  11. Roberte H. Hopcke, A Guided Tour of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung (Boston 1989) p. 108
  12. Jacoby, p. 118
  13. C. G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (London 1996) p. 162
  14. Jane O'Connor, The Cultural Significance of the Child Star (2008) p. 101
  15. John Izod, Myth, Mind and the Screen (2001) p. 88
  16. R. J. Crowley/J. C. Mills, Therapeutic Metaphors for Childhood and the Child Within (2001) p. 33
  17. Segal, p. 84
  18. O'Connor, p. 101

Further reading

  • Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential, by Caroline Myss; ISBN 978-0609810118.
  • Abstracts of the Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Ed. Carrie L. Rothgeb, National Clearinghouse for Mental Health Information (U.S.). Karnac Books, 1994. ISBN 185575035X, ISBN 9781855750357.
  • Karl Kerenyi: Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter, 1960, in English 1967
  • Stevens, Anthony in The Archetypes (Chapter 3.) Ed. Papadopoulos, Renos The Handbook of Jungian Psychology (2006).
  • Jung, C. G. (1934–1954), "The Psychology of the Child Archetype", in The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious, Collected Works, 9 (2 ed.), Princeton, NJ: Bollingen, 1981, ISBN 0-691-01833-2.
    • 1951 Introduction to a Science of Mythology. The Myth of the Divine Child and the Mysteries of Eleusis (In collaboration with Karl Kerényi)

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Child (archetype). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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