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Where have all the children gone?

How long must the search go on?

See them on the milk carton.

Someone stole their only son.
Bob Dylan, Where Have All The Children Gone?

Children Are Innocent (Usually.) Children Are Special. Children make us smile and make us laugh. As adults grow older, Think of the Children becomes a primary motivator for many things they do, because kids are how they Fling a Light Into the Future.

...Unless that light is extinguished.

Perhaps there was a Sterility Plague, Gendercide, or Herod got a little overzealous; or maybe they were all rounded up to power the phlebotinum generator. At any rate, life is now grey, dreary and pointless, since there's nobody to build a future for.

On the idealistic end of the scale, it can be a temporary case of mass kidnapping, requiring nothing more than a few Big Damn Heroes to get them back. But if the poor things are dead or breeding has simply been closed off as an option, you've fallen off the cynical end straight into New Crapsack, Halfemptia. Expect a rise in Nietzsche Wannabes, possibly spiraling into Bomb-Throwing Anarchists and Terrorists Without a Cause. The Fundamentalist is likely to decide this is some sort of divine retribution, and will be happy to explain why. The Anti-Nihilist may try to find some reason to go on, but he's facing a serious uphill battle.

Any resident Child Haters will probably be pretty cheerful, though.

For the inverse of this trope, see Teenage Wasteland. Compare Hide Your Children, which may give the appearance of this.

Examples of Childless Dystopia include:

Anime and Manga

Fairy Tales


  • In Children of Men, almost all of humanity has been rendered sterile, and society has collapsed into violent chaos.
  • The movie Daybreakers strongly implies this for most of the population, as the vampires, who compose 95% of the population, do not age or procreate. Another 4% are humans kept as stock to produce blood to feed the other 95%. The other 1% may have kids, but they are hunted down relentlessly by the vampires (who need more blood).
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang features a Ruritania in which the Child-Hater rulers have actually outlawed children. Yes, it makes no sense. It's not clear what the government does to the children, except that they're rounded up by the infamous "Child Catcher".


  • The 1992 novel Children of Men by P. D. James (with the aforementioned Film of the Book being an updated Pragmatic Adaptation).
  • Early in Belgarath the Sorcerer, Belgarath encounters a camp populated entirely by old people. They turn out to be the people who refused to follow Gorim to Ulgo, and were cursed with sterility as a result. They're just waiting to die off, and Belgarath finds the winter he spent with them very depressing.
  • New World in the Chaos Walking trilogy. Due to the fact that all the women in Prentisstown are dead, there hasn't been a child there in 13 years - not since the main character Todd was born.
  • In Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, a town has stopped having children ever since they heard a prophecy that one would bring down the king and end their prosperity. They live in dread of that day. At the end, after the old king has been brought down, the magician Schmendrick urges them to have children—it might help.
  • The Declaration Trilogy by Gemma Malley is set in a world where scientists have discovered life-extending drugs. However, a corrupt government is using the drugs to cling to power and prevent a younger generation from challenging them. Under the pretext of preventing overpopulation, strict laws have been passed, stating that no-one may reproduce unless they "Opt Out" of taking the drugs; even then, they are restricted to one child each. Any children born to parents who have not "Opted Out" (or who have "Opted Out" but already have a child) are labelled "Surpluses" and are taken away from their families to be raised in grim institutions. As very few people choose to "Opt Out", the result is a society where children, whether they were born legally or not, are greatly mistrusted.

Live Action TV

  • In Stargate SG-1, the Aschen Confederation offered the people of the planet Volia (P3A-194) a cure for a terrible disease on their world. However, the vaccine also resulted in sterility. A once thriving world of millions was reduced to chaos and riots, and then to a peaceful but empty world, with a few thousand apathetic residents and automated machines tending farmland. An earlier episode portrayed a Bad Future in which the same race was in the process of doing this to Earth.
  • The main driver for The Outer Limits episode "Black Rain". In the episode, a rain of some toxin causes people to become mostly sterile, resulting in this.

Video Games

  • At the beginning of Half-Life 2, the Combine has been suppressing human reproduction for years—an empty playground with the ghostly laughter of children reinforces the creepy-factor. Blowing up their Evil Tower of Ominousness at the end of the game removes the suppression field.
  • Resident Evil 4 has the village of people who've been turned into People Puppet Mooks, and notes explain that the children were unable to survive being implanted with a Puppeteer Parasite.

Western Animation

  • The Easter Bunny Is Comin To Town features the adults-only city called Town, which oddly is ruled over by a child king and his older aunt. There's a subversion involved in that near the Town is the children-only city called Kidville.

Web Original