The Child Archetype


We have all observed a seventy year old behaving like a child, throwing tantrums or hiding from their caretakers; we have experienced the occasional urge to engage in impulsive shopping and our tendency to sulk and to expect others to console us; these are all the expressions of the child archetype in us.

We usually associate qualities of innocence, impulsiveness, spontaneity, creativity as well as those of dependence, naivety, ignorance, stubbornness with our idea of a ‘child’. These qualities of the child archetype often manifest themselves in different ways for each of us.

As you go through these article, we encourage you to reflect upon the ways in which the child in you finds its expression. You might find yourself identifying more with only a certain set of qualities of the child archetype. Additionally, just like the other archetypes, the shadow side of the child archetype contains its weaknesses, the undesirable traits and its repressed impulses. To know more about the shadow as an archetype, please read our previous article on the same.


How the Child Archetype Makes Itself Known through Us


One of the first qualities that we associate with the idea of a child is innocence. The innocent aspect of the child archetype is naive as well as playful. Those of us in whom this aspect of the child archetype is prominent, would find themselves to be generally easy-going, having a carefree approach and being able to trust others easily. Such childlike innocence is beautifully exemplified in characters like Peter Pan and Snow White.

When the innocent child in us is healthily integrated into the psyche, it enables us to nurture the innocent, playful light-hearted side in us along with being able to carry out responsibilities of adulthood with relative ease and balance.

However, at times when we feel overwhelmed with challenges in our lives, this innocent child might not feel prepared to face them.  It discovers that world around us is not ideal nor fair and contains imperfections at every stage. As this child’s happy bubble breaks, it leads to feelings of despair, and the child finds itself feeling overwhelmed.

It is at such times, when the shadow of the child archetype could come into play and the child begins to find comfort in retreating into fantasy: we find ourselves refusing to acknowledge our concerns or deny them and on a broader note, we refuse to ‘grow up’ and take responsibility of the situation. Thus, the shadow side of the child is dominant in individuals who grow overly dependent on others to help them deal with their problems.