Inner child is a concept used in popular psychology and Analytical psychology to denote the childlike aspect of a person's psyche, especially when viewed as an independent entity. Frequently, the term is used to address subjective childhood experiences and the remaining effects of one's childhood. The inner child also refers to all of the emotional memory and experiences stored in the brain from earliest memory. The Twelve-step program recovery movement considers healing the inner child to be one of the essential stages in recovery from addiction, abuse, trauma, or post-traumatic stress disorder. In the 1970s, the inner child concept emerged alongside the clinical concept of codependency (first called Adult Children of Alcoholics Syndrome.)
Carl Jung referred to a similar concept as the "Divine Child". Emmet Fox called it the "Wonder Child". Charles Whitfield dubbed it the "Child Within". Some psychotherapists call it the "True Self". Transactional Analysis calls it simply Child. W. Missildine may have been the first to refer to this concept as the inner child in his 1963 book Your Inner Child of the Past. The "wounded inner child" is a modified application of the inner child concept popularized by American educator, and pop psychology and self-help movement leader, John Bradshaw.
The inner child can be considered a subpersonality, and many of those therapy approaches that work with subpersonalities deal with the inner child, even if they don't use that term. Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) has expanded the concept considerably in recognizing that there isn't just one inner child subpersonality, but many. IFS calls the wounded inner child subpersonalities "exiles" because they tend to be excluded from consciousness in order to defend against the pain and trauma that they carry. It has a sophisticated method for gaining safe access to a person's exiles, witnessing the stories of their origins in childhood, and healing them.