TV is overrun with shows offering crisp advice and soothing comfort for parents, so it's a relief that Childhood, a seven-part documentary series, isn't dispensing still more tips on diaper rash or finding a good day-care center. Instead, it offers profiles of 12 families living in places as varied as Brazil, Japan, Russia, Cameroon, and the United States. Different cultural styles of child rearing are contrasted as children ranging from newborns to teenagers are seen interacting with their families, doctors, friends, and schools.
Although the series follows children's growth from birth to adolescence this week, the focus is on the blossoming of personality traits in babies; the final installment tackles teen hormones one of the best things about Childhood is what seems to be the looseness of each hour-long episode. You never know what country or family the show is going to visit next; a segment showing the baptism of a baby in the Baka tribe of Cameroon is followed soon after by an interview with Dr. Benjamin Spock, who suggests that most ''so-called experts'' in child rearing are not to be taken "deadly seriously." Alex Chadwick and Lynn Neary lulling, familiar voices to anyone who listens to National Public Radio's All Things Considered provide the concise narration full of facts and figures and smooth transitions between the disparate scenes. A-