What is a word for someone concerned when they should be innocent or oblivious to hardships? I.e. a child worrying about money or when their next meal is.


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One idiomatic expression that is sometimes used for the phenomenon you ask about is that the person missed out on childhood. The earliest Google Books match for this phrase is fairly recent (1979), but the expression has subsequently generated enough matches to generate an Ngram graph, and a Google Books search for the phrase yields 30 unique matches from 1979 forward.

The expression sometimes comes up in connection with child celebrities, as in this exchange from "Modelling's Just Fun for 12-year-old Brooke," in The Australian Women's Weekly (November 9, 1977):

I asked Brooke [Shields] if she sometimes felt as though she'd missed out on childhood.

"Nope," she answered. "I've had a great childhood — friends and fun and stuff."

But it can also apply to people who missed out on a carefree youth as a result of family- or society-related turmoil and privation, as in Neerosh Mudaly & ‎Christopher Goddard, The Truth is Longer Than a Lie: Children's Experiences of Abuse and Professional Interventions (2006):

Eliza found various ways to cope with the confusions of her life [trapped in an abusive family]:

Yeah, I have a habit of blocking things out. I think I'm an expert at that. ... Sort of maybe it was born in me... {I also} turned to ways of denying all the pain and the issues and whatever. I went through a stage with drinking and the drugs and that didn't particularly help. I was a great one for the old self-mutilation as well.

I think what happens with most kids, is they grow up so quick, I had to grow up too quickly and I just feel like I missed out on childhood pretty much. Which is a pretty huge thing to cope with. Yeah, at times I still feel like I'm sort of stuck there, back in childhood. I didn't really have a choice, you have to grow up pretty fast in that sort of situation, otherwise you don't survive. It's as simple as that.

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