Updated: Nov 29, 2022
Things You May Not Know Affect Childhood Development
by Amy Conner
All parents want to make sure their children grow up well, from conception to adulthood. However, as a study from the University of Sherbrooke on parental concerns regarding childhood development made clear, parents may not recognize gaps in development milestones until it’s too late. Naturally, this leads to delayed intervention (if in fact there is intervention at all).
To promote awareness at First Time Parent Magazine, we want to highlight four factors that can affect a child’s development:
1. Their biological makeup
Biological factors like a child’s hormones, sex, and genes influence their development. In terms of sex, we see the diverse growth patterns that differentiate males from females — such as how boys tend to grow taller and stronger, but girls grow faster during adolescence. Hormones, on the other hand, influence various bodily functions; hormonal balance ensures normal physical growth.
Among these factors, genetics are especially powerful, serving to transmit parents’ characteristics to offspring — from physical appearance to diseases, intelligence, and aptitude. In fact, the University College London’s research on heredity and academic achievement found that a child’s educational success depends largely on genes they inherit directly from their parents. In fact, even genes not directly passed on can influence a child’s traits. This is because, for instance, parents with a higher genetic propensity for learning are more likely to have an interest in activities like reading –– which in turn can nurture a love of learning in their kids.
2. Their immediate environment
A child’s environment determines the physical and psychological stimulation they receive. As such, physical surroundings and geographical conditions influence early childhood development in a major way. For example, the weather where you grow up can contribute to your body rhythms and allergies. A child who is nurtured in a community with parks, libraries, and other such areas will have more opportunities to develop strong interpersonal skills, compared to those who were raised in more remote or stressful environments.
One paper from Washington University in St. Louis on poverty and growth notes that inadequate nutrition and less access to healthcare can also impact a child’s brain development. The study even found that certain brain regions are sensitive to environmental factors such as pollutants. In part because of these factors, children who grow up in poverty will need additional support and resources to attain better outcomes.
3. Any speech-language issues
Language is the foundation of communication through which everything else is learned. Having a strong command of language thus impacts the way a child shares ideas, retains and recalls information, learns literacy skills, and interacts with people. Children with speech impairments, meanwhile, often struggle against bullying, which may lead to awkwardness and isolation as they avoid activities out of shame or embarrassment.
Language-related developmental problems require professional intervention. Accordingly, Maryville University’s insights on communication science highlight a high demand for speech-language pathologists and audiologists, as many Americans live with some sort of disorder that inhibits communication. More than one million children in U.S. public schools receive therapy for some form of impairment, and these professionals step up to patiently provide care for them. Speech-language therapists in particular instruct children and their families on techniques for improvement, which they can then practice regularly at home to overcome their condition.
4. Their interactions with caregivers
A child’s development hinges on positive relationships with the people around them. By watching you and other caregivers, they learn how to manage energy levels and emotions. Their interactions with those in their lives also teach them self-regulation and social skills. It’s therefore crucial for parents, siblings, relatives, and other adults to model good traits so that a child can grow into a healthy, functional individual.
We see the most growth when families invest time, energy, and love in their children through activities like play, reading aloud, and deep conversations. As discussed in our post on “The Benefits of Crafting with Toddlers” for example, crafting with toddlers helps parents teach children how they can get “unstuck,” artistically speaking, and work through any failures they experience. As with so many things in life, being aware of potential problems and solutions is crucial in influencing child development. The more conscious you are of the factors that can shape that development, the better you’ll be prepared to enforce positive conditions.