Brain science and child development
Brain science and child development
It is important to study how we think, remember, or learn, and how we perceive events and make decisions. The early years of life are important for a child’s later development and health. The brain starts growing before birth continuing into early childhood and it continues to develop and change throughout into adulthood. Studies indicate that brain development also affects the development of behaviour. In addition, early brain development is influenced by the child’s day to day interactions with their caregivers on whom they are very dependent. The first 8 years are important as it the period when the child builds the foundation of future learning, health, and life success. As a result, a child’s brain development depends on the attachment or bond of the relationship with the primary caregiver. However, children undergo the development stages at their own unique rates and way.
The process of brain development begins about two weeks after conception and continues into young adulthood. During the prenatal months, the brain develops under genetic control although the environment such as lack of proper nutrition and the presence of toxins such as alcohol and stress can influence brain development. On the other hand, brain development that occurs during postnatal is dependent on experience and is defined by interactions between gene and environment. Parents should nurture and provide responsive care for their child’s body and mind to support healthy brain development since positive or negative experiences influence the developing brain and can have life-long effects. Stressors in early childhood disrupt neurological, metabolic, and immunologic systems resulting in poorer developmental outcomes. Therefore, consistent, responsive caregiving, as well as support from the community and health care environment, can promote optimal trajectory. It is necessary to provide the right care starting before birth and continue through childhood to ensure that the child’s brain grows well and reaches its full potential.
Studies indicate that brain development is a hierarchical process of wiring the brain. In this case, the higher-level processes build on the foundation of the lower-level processes. For instance, the development of language depends on sensory and perceptual development such as discrimination of speech sounds. The type of stimuli the infant or the child is exposed to help in shaping the brain and behaviour except in cases where the brain comes with biases for certain perceptual information such as for speech, language, or faces.
““As children develop, their brains “mirror” their parent’s brain. In other words, the parent’s own growth and development, or lack of those, impact the child’s brain. As parents become more aware and emotionally healthy, their children reap the rewards and move toward health as well.”
Why it's important for parents to understand brain development
For a healthy brain, parents should nurture experiences, provide good nutrition, intervene early, protect, and provide optimal care. Babies thrive when they receive warm and responsive early care as early care has a decisive and long-lasting impact on how they develop their ability to learn as well as their capacity to regulate emotions. Children are born ready to learn, therefore, they depend on their parents, family members, or caregivers as their first teachers. As a result, they develop the right skills that enable them to become independent and to lead a healthy and successful life.
The Whole Brain Child – 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive by Dr Daniel Siegel
The Yes Brain Child – by Dr Daniel Siegel
Why Love Matters – by Sue Gerhardt
Being There, Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters – by Eric Komisar