Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development

How Development in the Early Childhood Years Affects Development in the Elementary School Years

How a child is treated during their early years1 has a clear and direct impact on how well they do in their later childhood, adolescent and adult years. A child who lives in a tolerant home may learn to be tolerant. A child who lives with firm but flexible rules may grow to be firm, flexible and capable of understanding and following everyday rules. A child who understands early on that things “may not always go their way” will probably become an adult who accepts other people’s opinions and decisions without feeling rejected or belittled.

Securely vs. insecurely attached children. Many people believe that if we respond to a baby or toddler’s every emotional need (if we pick up an infant every time he or she cries, for example), we will end up with children who are clingy and who won’t let go of their parents. In fact, research strongly indicates that the opposite is true. Children who have had their needs met most of the time and in a timely manner tend to be securely attached to their primary caregivers and they will not cling to their parents when they are older. They may not like it when Mom leaves, but they will be ok, because they know that Mom will be back. On the other hand, children whose needs were not met on a regular basis and in a timely manner may end up feeling that they cannot always trust that their parent will come back, because earlier experiences have taught them that. These are the children who will cling to their parents. They do so because their experiences with their parents leaving were inconsistent. They were not picked up consistently when they cried so they may not be confident that their parents will be there when they need them. So, an emotionally secure child, who grows up in a loving, consistent, firm but kind environment has better chances of learning how to listen to their teacher during their school years. The benefits of emotional security may also be seen later on, as adults who can work well with their employer, who can stand up for themselves, and who value diverse and different opinions from their own.

Key Point. Parents and caregivers should understand that a child’s early environments have long-lasting effects. It’s necessary and important to provide safe, loving and secure environments, especially during the early years, when children are extremely dependent on their caregivers.

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