My question is this. With basic supplies and relatively little technology, what ages should I include in my post-apocalyptic situation of creating a new sort of country? And, how many of each age should I include?

There are no adults, to begin with for story reasons, and adult starts at sixteen. The youngest possible is eight months. There can’t be more than sixteen of any year and only eight 15-year-olds. There must be at least two people at every year from 0-15.

This takes place in the Texas hill country, and they have control of around 100 square miles where there isn’t anyone else. They have little technology and have to farm and make things. Again, there are also small children.

Assume slightly above age level skills and knowledge in at least one field per person, with three-quarters of the kids above eight having majorly above typical skills and knowledge. This means craftspeople, tech geeks who can repair technology, gardeners, historians, a few survivalists, hunters, and significant first aid knowledge.

It would be useful if the reasoning behind the answer is mentioned, at least a little bit.

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    $\begingroup$ If you are writing a story then you write the distribution of characters based on story requirements. Trying to inject a set of entirely artificial rules like yours and then asking for a best distribution of ages is silly. Write your story based on what characters you need, not on some arbitrary puzzle game. $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2018 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ Make them as old as possible. 1) You need workforce. 2) Children need a lot of attention and care. Your below 16 year old sure are not doctors and other specialists. 3) Immunization and herd immunity. $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2018 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ That's not what you actually ask - read e.g. your second paragraph. Note that a max of 8 at any year and only 4 15 year olds means that your "civilization" will be started by at most 124 individuals and you as you don't explain their genetic relationships that's an unlikely number of adults, let alone children, to start a civilization from. Above average knowledge in a 15 year old is also not going to help - what knowledge can they have of a post apocalyptic world ? How do they exert control over 100 square miles ? What is there to control ? Have they resources ? Too vague. $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2018 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ Are you assuming that somebody (maybe the older ones), decide the most rational course of action and expel the others? If it's after an apocalypse you would have the normal distributions so close to equal numbers of all of them. You are creating a story, why don't you play with the consequences of the apocalypse and answer how many would survive the first impact? Then you can keep a few of each age (or phase) to allow you to explore different stories. How many? One (the minimum), 2 (a couple), 5 (brotherhood), 10(rivalry)... $\endgroup$
    – Tomás
    Dec 8, 2018 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ Could you clarify a bit what you are trying to optimize the age distribution for? Is it highest probability of long-term survival? $\endgroup$
    – Alexis
    Dec 8, 2018 at 22:51

3 Answers 3


Going by your last edit's numbers you have at most 8x15 year olds and 16 of each of the years 12-14 who can do any serious labor and would be able to care for the other kids in a leadership role. That's 40 kids, let's say 60, who can "run" things.

The rest of the kids consist of 0-5 year olds who can provide no useful labor or generate no resources, but do consume resources and require constant care. Large families with adults might manage with one adult caring for and one working all the hours of the day and night to support maybe 7 kids. But these aren't grown adults, they're teens. The best they'll manage will be half that - maybe one older teen to care for three young kids and probably two older teens to generate resources for the "family" of six (and even that sounds optimistic). It's a dubious maybe with the support of middle year kids, who you'd need to generate enough resources to equate to feeding themselves doing chores that release the older kids for more work.

Even with these optimistic numbers you're looking at something skewed heavily to teens with minimal younger kids.

So I'd pitch this at fully loading the 11-15 year old "slots".

Maybe 1-2 kids in each of the 0-5 year old slots.

Maybe 1-3 kids in each of the 6-8 year old slots.

Maybe 1-4 kids in the 9-10 year old slots.

Given that distribution you're maybe talking about a party of teens in one location "surviving" the apocalypse and picking up odd one or twos of survivors of younger kids as they "search the ruins" or whatever approach you want to take.

Note that the problem with this scenario remains simply that even if they could survive that's all they could do. There's no scope here for building a civilization - they'd be barely able to subsist. Think of it this way : I'm a well educated science grad in his mid fifties. I survive the apocalypse and I'm reduced to farming. Which means I'm dead because as well educated as I am I know nothing about farming really. Your kids need to be farmers and that's what they need to know. Forget science - your science can't save you now !

But even with a bunch of farmer's kids, be aware that farming in a modern setting is not remotely like farming in a post-apocalyptic world would be. No bags of seed or fertilizer to hand, things like that have gone.

Your other issue is health. Again few adults could provide health care of a useful kind in a post-apocalyptic world. Do you know how to treat a wound ? Fix a broken bone ? Diagnose an infection and cure it ! Walk into a fully stocked pharmacy (as an educated adult) and work out which pills will help and which will make things worse. What if someone needs an appendix taken out (as I did in my teens) ? What if someone gets bitten by a rat ? Is a mark on the skin a serious infection that will kill or just a rash that will go away ? What's good blood pressure and heart rate in children of different ages and sexes ? What's bad ? Can you do anything about it or do you even need to if these basic things are out of expected ranges ?

So health could be a killer here.

When is the food safe to eat ? When is it not ? I'd have trouble with that one (remember - post apocalyptic !). If e.g. I plant a potato and it looks green is is safe to eat or not ? What if the whole crop looks that way and there doesn't seem to be an alternative ? One thing kids are not good at (and many adults) is contingency planning - they're unlikely to have a backup plan for problems. And can you bake bread starting from a field full of wheat ?

I'm dubious that sufficient numbers can survive to produce a decent sized second generation. The entire society would be on subsistence levels of existence for a very, very long time (many generations).

  • $\begingroup$ I have those problems worked out, mostly. I plan to insert at least one absurd in college at ten in the fifteen slots, and have them have medical background. Around eight of the others of varying ages will have some form of preppier knowledge and skills. They will have bags of seed and such, as the main apocalypse was simply the dissapearance off anyone over sixteen, and the repercussions caused. $\endgroup$ Dec 10, 2018 at 3:30

Don't start with arbitrary numbers first, start with identifying the characters you need for your story first. Protagonist, ally, false-ally, antagonist, false-antagonist, identify all the character roles you'll need for your story. That's what matters. The exact number of how many in each age group doesn't really matter.

It didn't matter exactly how many kids were washed up on the island in Lord of the Flies. What mattered was that there were the characters who served the different purposes in the story. Develop the character roles first, then fill in the extras.

That said, how are three quarters of the eight to elevens going to know anything about anything? Only your twelve year olds and older are going to be mature enough to contribute in any meaningful way. You're going to have to have a plausible reason why a nine year old has craftsman skills or knows how to repair a car. Even then, getting food for everyone and attending to basic survival needs (clothes, shelter, heat) is going to take up the great majority of their time, and technical skills and academic knowledge will fall into disuse. The younger kids won't get the education and training of the older kids. In a couple of generations, the descendants of the kids will be back to being herdsmen and hunter-gatherers.

  • $\begingroup$ I have multiple main characters, of varying ages, but I need a basis for circumstance, plus, the awnser will help me with worldbuilding which is important, and not the same as story building. $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2018 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ If you're asking for plausible explanations for why there are certain numbers of kids in certain age groups, you could always have them be survivors from an experimental school for the gifted, which only enrolled 16 students from each age group. As for exact numbers, how about the maximum for each age group, so, 16, minus 10% losses through sickness, misadventure, and other dangers. You have your characters, so the exact number of extras doesn't really matter. $\endgroup$
    – TheLeopard
    Dec 8, 2018 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ I don’t have characters, my characters come from my world, as does my story. I had a plan for a type of apocalypse, and wanted to know how many kids I should have. My pla was the gifted school already, and the idea was that it stopped at middle school, so the 15year olds were older siblings or friends. They were more based on grade then age though. $\endgroup$ Dec 10, 2018 at 3:33

Contemporary views on what children need are determined by contemporary conditions.

The easiest way to 'take care of' children is to take them to work with you, you're not working in an environment in which people don't get paid if you don't give the object of your employment 100% attention.

You're not operating in an environment in which one person has more certification to take care of children. You're not operating in an environment in which children can be expected to spend 30 years learning how to cope with life. You're not operating in an environment which allows for the waste of some resources.

Most views on minimum viable (genetic) populations are based on selective interpretations at best. Ignore it.

The trouble here is that your community can try to do whatever it (you) wants, how successful it would reasonably be is open-ended.

If we include kids who grew up with parents who had them help with vegetable gardening, there's very little that can't be done with improvised materials and in most post-apocalyptic scenarios enough of everything would still be around intact to provide for a single small community.

The nature of the apocalypse will determine the practical use of (almost) any given skill, the manner in which the children attempt to survive will also.

Building a village in the woods to avoid notice by aliens that routinely patrol ruins will require very different basic requirements to living in a world post-rapture with most technology remaining intact and available... will require different skills and abilities to surviving a zombie apocalypse etc.

An answer because it's long, rather than because it answers your question..


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