Infancy and Early Childhood Development

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Introduction

In human growth and development, early childhood is considered the most significant stage because it influences other stages of development. The brain and other biological organs develop at infancy. An infant’s early experiences play a big role in influencing behavior and participation in social life. If proper care is not taken, the child’s potential in various facets of life may not be realized. It is estimated that two hundred and fifty thousand children in the world fail to realize their full intellectual potential every year due to lack of good care at infancy (Benson & Haith, 2009). They, therefore, score poor grades in school and end up in low-income jobs. This is particularly prevalent in Africa and Asia. This paper will investigate how the family influences a child’s development.

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Family: development of infants and young children

Family plays an important role in the development of infants. The higher the caliber of family involvement in the child’s development, the healthier the child will turn out to be. The family forms the first interaction environment for the child and inevitably determines the child’s behaviors and ethos. A child who grows in a violent environment is more predisposed to be emotionally unstable than another child who grows in a peaceful family (Emde & Hewitt, 2001). Family, in many cases, is the source of food for the child. Proper nutrition influences the physical development of a child. Emde and Hewitt (2001) point out that the early years of a child have an irreversible impact on the physical and intellectual development of a child. Spending time with the family makes a child ready for the various aspects of life. For instance, a family that spends quality time with the child, reading and playing, lays a good foundation for social interaction and learning readiness.

Parenting style and child’s development

A child’s confidence, self-esteem, and sense of self-worth are determined by how the family treats him or her. If a child is respected and valued, he /she will view him/herself as such. A friendly family environment ensures safety for the child and this inculcates a sense of belonging. A positive social environment prepares the child to interact with the world with a sense of respect. Mix, Levine, and Huttenlocher (2002) observe that if a child grows up in a responsive environment, he/she will become a good communicator who is capable of expressing and articulating issues to the world. Other factors within the family may affect a child’s development even though parents can not help it. For instance, the order in which a child is born may determine their character (Mix, Levine, & Huttenlocher, 2002). First-born children are more responsible and domineering in comparison to last-born children. Those born in the middle are more accommodative and less demanding than the first and last-born children. Additionally, family income can influence a child’s behavior. Children from poor neighborhoods are more likely to have behavior problems than those from rich families.

To categorize parents, their ability to exercise power/control over their children is evaluated. Additionally, their degree of responding to the needs of their children is taken into consideration. Parents who are very strict with their children are said to apply an authoritarian parenting style. Such parents are usually intransigent to the needs of the children and they value subservience over other things. In reaction, the children retract into their worlds and become unhappy. The second type of parenting style is called permissive parenting. Parents allow their children the liberty to do what they chose. Children, therefore, become independent and capable of free-thinking at an early stage. They also become better communicators who will always articulate issues on behalf of their colleagues and age mates. However, children brought up through the permissive parenting style tend to be rebellious and disobedient. They become difficult to handle at school because they do not fear authority figures.

The other style of parenting is called the authoritative style. Parents set limits for their children and demand discipline and obedience. On their part, they listen to their children’s needs and address them adequately. Instead of choosing for the child, such a parent gives two choices and asks the child to select one. In effect, the child learns about choices and consequences at an early age. Confidence and responsibility are thus instilled into the child. Uninvolved parenting style borders on neglect. The parent neither sets rules nor attends to the needs of the child. Parents who use this style run the risk of destabilizing their children’s emotional and physical growth. Emotionally, the child finds it hard to bond with others. Chances of developing anti-social behaviors are high. I think the authoritative parenting style is the most effective because it is balanced. It prepares the child for the real world in ways that other styles don’t. For instance, choices and consequences concepts define human existence and the early the child learns about them, the better.

Early childhood education: cognitive development

Early childhood education has been a subject of discourse, not just among educators but also philosophers and psychologists. Some argue that the child’s education should be planned while others argue that it should be natural and spontaneous. What is however not debatable is that early childhood education influences cognitive development in many ways. Benson and Haith (2009) assert that children learn better through the use of schemas. As a child develops, he absorbs information from the environment. New information is added into the existing one leading to its partial or complete modification. The first stages of cognitive learning are through sensory-motor responses. As the child’s brain develops, it builds the ability to learn abstract ideas. Play can be used to enhance cognitive development (Benson & Haith, 2009). This is basically through reducing the abstractness inherent in most learning activities. Numeracy skills prepare the child’s brain for problem-solving.

Early childhood education also promotes literacy thus influencing cognitive development. A child achieves literacy in the early stages through association. For example, if a child walks into a room where a man is eating, he is likely to identify the word ‘eat’ from a set of other words printed on flashcards (Benson & Haith, 2009). This is however likely to be undermined in later stages of early learning especially when a linguistic word has no association with the object it refers to. Additionally, a change of context may bring about confusion. This confusion is however beneficial because it contributes to the child’s cognitive development by setting the right fundamentals for learning. Research has also established that a busy brain is more likely to develop and mature than that which is left inactive (Benson & Haith, 2009). Learning increases the brain’s activities thus stimulating the flow of blood. The flow of blood to the brain nourishes the cells and leads to their growth.

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Conclusion

Early childhood is a very important stage and proper care should be taken to establish a good foundation for the child. Nutrition should not just be available but also well-balanced to help in physical growth. The family should provide an enabling environment upon which a child’s emotional and cognitive potentials can be fully realized. Parenting should inculcate confidence, discipline, and a sense of responsibility. Early education programs should be well thought out to enhance cognitive development.

References

Benson, J. B., & Haith, M. M. (2009). Language, memory, and cognition in infancy and early childhood. Amsterdam: Academic.

Emde, R. N., & Hewitt, J. K. (2001). Infancy to early childhood: Genetic and environmental influences on developmental change. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mix, K. S., Levine, S. C., & Huttenlocher, J. (2002). Quantitative development in infancy and early childhood. New York: Oxford University Press.

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