James Fenton looks at Edward Gibbon's memoirs. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
This is interesting: "Gibbon has a different conception of psychology from us. He dismisses childhood altogether as a clue to adulthood: 'In the entire period of 10 or 12 years from our birth, our pains and pleasures, our actions and designs are remotely connected with our present mode of existence; and according to a just computation we should begin to reckon our life from the age of puberty.' So we must read him with a consciousness that he is working from a quite different theory of personality."
I wouldn't go quite so far, but I do think the importance of childhood tends to be exaggerated. After all, most of us spend our childhood years - or at least we did when I was a child - waiting for them to be over.