those parameters used for connection management. Below is a figure describing such a few parameters. Pgpool-II spawns child process (the number of process is defined by num_init_children parameter) at the startup time. Each child process takes care of client connections and backend connections to the PostgreSQL database.
First of all there are two connections. One is between clients and Pgpool-II. The other is between Pgpool-II and PostgreSQL. So you should recognize which parameter affects which connection.
This parameter controls the lifetime of Pgpool-II process. Since connections to/from clients and PostgreSQL are in the process, all connections will disappear when the process exits. A benefit to enable the parameter is to free out memories used by the Pgpool-II process. For example, Pgpool-II needs to allocate memory to hold message data sent from client. That could be large if table row is wide. Of course the memory used by the message is freed after the communication is done. But it does not actually free out memory from process space. So occasional process exit and restart may be good for applications which could handle large messages. Note that when Pgpool-II process exits, corresponding PostgreSQL also exits.
The timer for the parameter starts when no connections from clients exist. For a busy system the timer may not be triggered because next client connection arrives as soon as former client exits. In this case you may want to use child_max_connections parameter.
If the number of connection count from clients exceeds this parameter, then the Pgpool-II process exits and restarts. Even if your system is too busy to trigger the child_lifetime, this parameter should work because it only counts the number of connections from clients.
Unfortunately currently there's no metrics to know how many connections from client have been made to a Pgpool-II process.
If a client does not send next query for a period of this parameter, the connection to the client is disconnected. Note that the timer starts after previous query receives the result from PostgreSQL. Therefore bellow query does not trigger the disconnection even if client_idle_limit = 10 (seconds) until the client receives the result.
Unlike the parameters above this controls the lifetime of cached connections to PostgreSQL backend. Note that Pgpool-II keeps up to max_pool connections to PostgreSQL backend. The timer is checked against those connections to PostgreSQL backend when the Pgpool-II process returns to the idle state (waiting for connections from clients). So if a client occupies the connection for long time, the cached connections remain longer than the period specified by the parameter.
You can control the connection lifetime parameters to save resource of the system. For a systems which are not so busy, you can leave those parameters as default. However if your system getting busy you might want to tweak them. Hope this blog entry is useful for busy systems.