Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child
Paper/Research Report
Year Published: 2004
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child

New research shows the critical impact of a child's "environment of relationships" on developing brain architecture during the first months and years of life. The authors of this 16-page working paper explain that while professionals have long known that interactions with parents, caregivers, and other adults are important in a child's life, new evidence shows that these relationships actually shape brain circuits and lay the foundation for later developmental outcomes, from academic performance to mental health and interpersonal skills. However, they assert, many of the nation's policies, such as parental leave, child care, welfare work requirements, and child protection services, fail to take into account the crucial importance of this environment of relationships and its impact on child well-being. The authors address this gap between science and practice by summarizing the most current and reliable research on the impact of relationships on all aspects of a child's development. They then identifyways to strengthen policies that affect those relationships in the early childhood years. The paper includes 78 research references. Modified Author Abstract.

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