Bel Mooney has taken twelve children from different parts of the British Isles and observed them over a year as they play, learn and grow. She saw Denise being born, watched Gemma, the daughter of a company executive, at her nursery school and heard the fears of the parents of Donald, a West Indian child from Birmingham. She saw David in preparatory school and Melanie in her comprehensive; talked to a fourteen-year-old Asian boy about his experience of race, and to a ten-year-old Welsh boy about family violence.
The twelve chapters in The Year of the Child mirror the stages in a child's development from total dependence to independence and self-awareness and the beginnings of a critical attitude to the world around — a world in which he or she, whatever the social background, has had very little personal choice. The Year of the Child makes a valuable contribution to social history, describing six boys and six girls from different parts of the British Isles and from three broad social groups; it goes beyond journalism and social comment to become a re-enactment of what the author calls 'that cyclical loss of innocence which is at the root of human experience'.