10 Reasons Why Early Childhood Development is More Critical Than Ever

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early childhoodWe’ve all heard of the U.S.’s incarceration issues. Our prisons are overpopulated and terribly expensive to maintain. Even worse is the immeasurable human potential that is lost behind bars. You’re familiar with the problem. But its roots might run deeper than you might realize. Did you know studies suggest that having access to pre-primary education decreases a child’s chances of being incarcerated later in life?

Why? At the heart of it all lies early childhood development and its ripple effect throughout an individual’s lifetime.

In an age of an ever-increasing achievement gap and all the privileges it affords — wellbeing, comfort and success — the need for effective early childhood development is more crucial than ever before. As the foundation to success in school, and throughout a lifetime, the implications of early childhood development are bigger than many understand — it’s the difference between the skills, resources and ability to have a fair shot at life.

Keep reading to get a better picture of the monumental influence early childhood development can have on a child’s mind, health and future.

10 reasons why early childhood development is so significant

1. The first years of life are the most formative for the human brain

The architecture of the brain is built during the first few years of life, when brains are developing rapidly. Hundreds of neural connections develop each second through interactions between babies, adults and their surroundings.

The brain’s ability to adapt and grow diminishes greatly as it matures and performs more complex functions. Because of this, early childhood development is crucial to supporting cognitive, emotional and social capabilities throughout a lifetime. These all serve as critical components to success in school and later on in the workplace and community.

2. Adversity in early years reflects in the architecture of the brain

The architecture of the brain starts its construction even before a child is born, continuing all the way into adulthood. Events that take place in the early years can determine whether that foundation is sturdy or fragile.

When a child experiences abuse, violence, neglect or toxic stress early in life, the adversity can have a detrimental effect on their brain development. This can lead to disparities in learning and behavior, which could undermine their potential for success.

3. Children are underserved around the world

There is a shocking lack of preschool provision for children across the globe. Half of children ages three to six don’t have access to pre-primary education. One-fourth of all children are physically stunted, harming essential cognitive development and physical capabilities.

Many governments severely underfund their investment in early childhood development around the world. This often leads to lowered academic performance, particularly among disadvantaged children.

4. Early life environments can chemically alter genes

The formative early years of life can permanently alter the genes in young children. The environment in which one develops, both prenatally and after birth, can affect genetics and how they are expressed throughout a person’s life.

While genetics are passed down through inheritance, environmental factors can carve a chemical signature into genes, determining whether or not they’ll be expressed, or to what extent they’ll be realized in a person. Negative or harmful experiences could undermine a person’s potential by chemically altering genes in brain cells. These changes are sometimes passing and other times can be permanent.

5. Early childhood development could be the key to closing the achievement gap

Because a child’s brain is so impressionable in the early years, vocabulary disparities can develop in children as young as eighteen months, and differences exaggerate from there. For example, one study found that by age three, children of college-educated caregivers had vocabularies two to three times more expansive than those cared for by individuals who hadn’t completed high school. This means these children, at no fault of their own, will already be at a disadvantage as they enter their first day of school.

6. High levels of adversity in early years often lead to developmental delays

Researchers assert that children who face six to seven risk factors in their early years are almost guaranteed to experience developmental delays. These risk factors can include poverty, caregiver mental illness, child maltreatment and low maternal education. The more risk factors a child faces, the higher the risk of developmental delay.

7. Emphasis on early childhood development can fight cycles of inequality and poverty

Prioritizing early childhood development provides many benefits to children. As they grow, these benefits magnify to positively affect entire societies. Supporting healthy development in children simply leads to a greater capacity to learn, success in school and ultimately an increased productivity throughout adulthood.

When children are provided nurturing care, intellectual stimulation and supportive nutrition, these factors provide the groundwork for a fruitful life. In fact, this emphasis on early childhood development can fight cycles of inequality and poverty. By solidifying a strong foundation on which to grow, achievement gaps shrink and children have an increased chance at escaping the grip of poverty through a lifetime of success in school and beyond.

8. Children ages one – three are the most likely age group to experience maltreatment

It’s estimated that 16 of every 1,000 children are maltreated. Maltreatment includes everything from general neglect, medical neglect, physical and sexual abuse and psychological maltreatment. Neglect is by far the most prevalent form of child maltreatment.

Neglect can disrupt children’s brain development and biological stress-response development. It is also associated with significant risk for emotional and interpersonal complications, learning difficulties and poor school achievement.

9. Significant adversity in childhood can negatively affect long-term physical health

The more adversity children experience in their early years, the more likely they’ll see lifelong health ramifications. These include diabetes, hypertension, stroke, obesity, cancer and heart disease. Some examples of adverse childhood experiences are emotional, physical and sexual abuse, divorce, an incarcerated parent, or mental illness, substance abuse or violence in the home.

10. An emphasis on early childhood development has societal monetary benefits

Properly educating and empowering young children pays off monetarily, too. It’s reported that every dollar invested in early childhood programs equates to an estimated $4 – $9 in return. This comes in the form of reduced spending on crime, welfare and special education. The public also benefits from a boost in tax revenue from increased earnings.

Help build the foundation of our future

Early childhood development is a critical and formative phase for all individuals to discover their potential. And early childhood educators are leading the charge by invest in future generations.

There are children in your own community who are facing an uphill battle, by no fault of their own. Who is going to step up to support them? Who will advocate for their wellbeing? Who will help them build the foundation they need to have a fighting chance society?

It’s time to take a stand for our smallest citizens. Do you have what it takes to lead the charge?

Step up to the challenge and inspire a world of good in our next generation. Check out our article to learn how we can help, 8 Things You Need to Know About ECE Programs at Wheelock College.

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  1. Wow. Setting people up for proper brain development and education from a very early age is incredibly important! We don’t necessarily get to help our answering service agents out that early, but we have found our continued education and progressive training programs to be super beneficial. Nobody should ever stop learning, but it’s crucial to set up our children for success from the start! Thanks for sharing.

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