Infancy and early childhood are considered a time when most cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development takes place; allowing it to be exceptional and very essential in human development. A child’s development does not start at birth but through proper nutrition before and during conception. “Infancy and early childhood is a critical stage of development that forms the foundation for children’s future well-being and learning” (UNICEF, 2011). At this early stage of life, development can be hinder due to certain factors within families and the environment.
In this paper, I will explain how families affect the development of infants and young children. I will also evaluate different parenting styles and its influences on a child’s development during the infancy and early childhood stages while voicing my opinion on which parenting style I believe is most effective. Lastly, I will discuss early childhood education and the influence it plays on cognitive development.
Effect of Families on Development
Throughout history, the role of families and how it affects a child development has been a topic of discussion for centuries.
“Family is the first interaction that a child have that remains continuously” (Elkin & Handel, 1978). The family structure and parent-child communication have more of an impact on the child development than those early years of attending daycare. Throughout the United States, children are raised in various family environment ranging from single to dual parenting, same-sex parenting, and multi-racial parenting. All of those factors contribute to the different families, cultures, and religion a child is introduced to because they are all spawned through marriage, divorce, and other forms of relationship connections.
Berger (2011), argues that “families accommodate responses in children from the facial expression, emotional and physical connections.” “The sense of security a child finds at their home base is the foundation of their success in life” (Harris, nd; Faith, n.d).
Engaging in “baby talk” allows children to gain socialization skills. Positive family interactions make room for healthy brain, emotional, and cognitive development. Children learn from their surroundings, they absorb all information from families and parents; whatever message that is giving to that child molds the “basis of the child’s self-concept and self-confidence, which are vital to positive social and emotional developmental changes throughout childhood” (Faith, nd.). During these early stages in a child’s life, they are more dependent on the role of family members to meet their needs thus molding their development in how they will later interact, learn, and view the world.
Styles of Parenting
Based off the studies of clinical and developmental psychologist Diane Baumrind, she “found that parents differed on four important dimensions” after studying “100 preschool children, all from California and mostly middle-class European Americans” (Berger, 2011, pg. 273). These dimensions are expressions of warmth, strategies for discipline, communication, and expectations for maturity. In order to understand the different parenting styles, the characteristics of these dimension for parent should be addressed. Expression of warmth describes a parent who is warm and display affection, when other parents can be analytical. Strategies for discipline are the thought process the parent goes through in determining the best route in dealing with the action of the child. Communication is the value the parent set on listening. Expectations for maturity describe the amount of responsibility that the parent(s) places on the child. The four different dimension of parents, allowed Baumrind to later identify three styles of parenting.
Parents who have an authoritarian style of parenting are “extremely strict and high controlling” (Gurian, 2011). “The authoritarian parent’s word is law, not to be questioned” (Berger, 2011). These parents do not expect their children to have an opinion and discussions about emotions are limited. Even though, authoritarian parents may not display emotions of love for their children; the love is there, some argue that it is “tough love” and a way to help children self soothe themselves and mold the child into coping with the world better.
Santrock (2010), argues that children whose parents use the authoritarian style of parenting are “often unhappy, fearful, and anxious about comparing themselves to others, fail to initiate activity, and have weak communication skills.” These children usually grow up to respect authority and are likely to become obedient, but place blame on themselves for their failures or if things go wrong.
“Permissive parents (also called Indulgent parents) “make few demands, hiding any impatience they feel (Berger, 2011, pg. 273). Parents do not believe in disciplining the child based on their thoughts of the maturity level of the child. These parents are more attached to their child needs and are very nurturing and accepting. They believe that children should have “free will” in choices to help shape and mold their character, they maintain a “friend” relationship with their child. The children that fall under the guidance of this style of parenting “usually have little self-control and little respect for others” (Santrock, 2010). These children usually grow up living at home and make immature decisions in life.
Unlike the authoritarian style of parenting, parents who fall under authoritative parenting “set limits and enforce rules but yet they also listen to their children” (Berger, 2011, pg., 273). This style of parenting allows room for maturity understanding that children make mistakes and that not all actions involve punishment. These parents “consider themselves as guides for their children” (Berger, 2011, pg. 273). Children who fall under this style are usually “cheerful, self-controlled, self-reliant, achievement-oriented, and maintain a friendly relationship with peers” (Santrock, 2010).
Neglectful/ Uninvolved Parenting
There is one more style of parenting that Baumrind failed to recognize, maybe because it is not a form of parenting in the eyes of society or that it “is sometimes mistaken for the permissive style, but is actually different” (Berger, 2011, pg. 274). The neglectful/uninvolved parenting upholds to its name. Neglectful parenting are those parents who are “uninvolved with children” (Santrock, 2010). Neglectful parents are unaware of their children action or whereabouts. The children that receive this parenting style are usually “immature, sad, and abused” (Berger, 2011, pg. 274); they lack self-discipline and have no respect for others; not even their own parents. I believe that the best parenting style depends on the value the parent place on their culture.
Some believe that the authoritarian style of parenting is most effective, because it allows the children to respect authority and function in society better. I am not sure if I necessarily agree that one style of parenting is better than the next. However, I do believe that children need to be guided and have discipline in order to become outstanding citizens. Regardless of which parenting style is most effective, each child will develop their own way of living and learning as they age; each generation is different and new ways of parenting is constantly being introduced.
Early Childhood Education and Cognitive Development
Early childhood is a time where physical growth takes place but the growth that emerges when early childhood education is presented has a major significant on the development of a child’s cognitive development. Cognitive development “pertains to the mental processes (language, memory, and problem solving skills that children use to acquire knowledge” (Grisham-Brown, 2009). According to Nuttall (n.d), “cognitive development impacts a child education and allow educational providers to better support children and in turn, play an active part in a child’s development at home.” Jean Piaget is credited for his work in childhood cognitive development. Piaget believed that children are intelligent but due to the maturity of their brain they just learn differently. “Piaget’s Cognitive Theory, had three basic components. Schemas “which are building blocks of a child’s knowledge and how he/she processes and categories information” (Nuttall, n.d).
The second component is the “process that take place for the transition to expand from one stage to another” (Nuttall, n.d). The third stage “includes the stages of development themselves” (Nuttall, n.d). An example to sum up how all these stages/component work within a child’s cognition would be how a child can differentiate between a chicken and a turkey. The child at first glimpse may process that they are the same thing, but he/she will later store new information that a turkey has different types of feathers which will help that child to process new information. The benefit of early childhood education plays a crucial and important role in the cognitive development of a child. There are many types of early childhood programs available; with access to these programs children have increase intelligence and gain cognition abilities faster.
These programs “stress children’s development and growth” (Berger, 2011, pg. 253). Child-centered programs are geared to strengthen the child’s own interest and abilities. Many of these programs are self-paced to allow children to explore their artistic expression. Montessori schools and Reggio Emilia are some of the schools that fall under the child-centered programs. Berger (2011), stated that “child centered programs are often influenced by Piaget, who emphasized that each child discover new ideas, and by Vygotsky, who thought that children learn from the other children, with adult guidance” (pg. 253).
“Teacher-directed programs stress academics, usually taught by one adult to the entire group” (Berger, 2011, pg. 255). These programs usually teach letter, numbers, and shape recognition. Within these programs children are required to take naps, have snacks, and go to the bathroom on a set schedule. These programs are usually geared to teach the children time management and appropriate behavior. Children who attend these programs adapt quickly to normal conditions that surround elementary schools.
Intervention programs like head start are aimed to cater to those families less fortunate to enroll their children into other early childhood education programs. “Both health and cognition” is the goal of these programs (Berger, 2011). These programs aid children to build social skills, importance of health, and learning to get them better prepared for the future.
It is without a doubt that the first interaction a child receives is that from parents and family members and that those relationships lay the foundation to how a child develops. It molds their personality and overall outcome on life in general. The style of parenting along with the interaction of parents influence development. Those parenting styles are authoritarian, permissive, authoritative, and neglectful parenting. Each style of parenting has a different effect on the child overall well-being and future. It is safe to say that early childhood education programs have a unique way in being essential to a child cognitive development. Each program is design to fit the child’s individual need but the results are all the same, it produces a higher intelligence rate and improvement in their cognitive development.
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