Growth and development is a very essential process in all living organisms and human beings in particular. It is a continuous process that starts right from conception, infancy, childhood, and adolescence/teenage, adulthood and old age.
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Babies’ development is a concept of concern as it has been perceived differently by many people with some saying that it’s a natural process that does not depend on the care given while others argue that care has to be given to enhance effective growth and development. Most young couples/ parents find it hard to bring up children mainly because they have little knowledge about newborn babies and they tend to panic especially if the baby is the first born in the family.
It is therefore very important for parents to prepare themselves for the arrival of the newborn in the family irrespective of the cost they may incur. Newborn babies need more care and attention since they are in a totally new environment that may make them vulnerable to many problems especially heath-related (Stone et al 13).
This paper will focus on the factors that affect child’s development. Good preparation, appropriate nutrition, healthy relationship and a good environment are some of the most essential factors that positively affect development of a child.
Importance of parents in child development
Parents are a very critical element when it comes to child development. A child who grows with adequate care and attention of the parents is far much better in terms of development as compared to those who develop away from the parents. The changes in growth can be clearly identified in terms of social interactions, academic performance as well as the general health and well being.
Socially, a child is able to interact with people of different ages and status as he or she is given the essential skills of socializing which could not be provided in a better manner by other people other than a parent. Academically, a child’s grades and attention are enhanced by parents’ involvement. This could be accrued to aspects like motivation and encouragement that keep the child learning and growing effectively due to anticipation of better performance.
Parents are very crucial agents of allowing their children to form and establish healthy relationships with other children as well as adults while they are still young. They act as role models and if the relationship between them and their children is a healthy one, it then follows that the children will also be able to form healthy relationships with other individuals and vice versa.
A good relationship between parents and children does not however come automatically but needs some efforts for instance enhancing effective communication, giving some teachings on anger management and allowing for some freedom to interact with other children for instance through playing together (Sheen 108).
Parents’ involvement in a child’s academic growth is also a positive contribution towards the child’s general growth and development. A parent could engage in various school-related activities all aimed at improving a child’s academic well being. A simple way could be assisting them in their homework and assignment encouraging them to do even better even if it means promising to reward them for their good performance.
This way, a child feels motivated and has the zeal to work hard and attain better grades. Apart from being involved in the academic life of their children, parents should also take part in the co-curriculum activities of the child. This plays a great role in building their personality and developing their talents. This could be through choosing some helpful activities for them and participating to make them enjoyable. Active involvement in the child’s different undertakings promotes growth, development as well as learning (Anonymous par 4).
Cognitive development is a very crucial aspect in child development. It is the process of constructing thoughts, remembering them, solving problems and making decisions. It starts from early childhood to adulthood. Children become aware of what is happening in their surrounding and are interested to be part of it very early in life which forms the basis of their learning.
Cognitive development entails how an individual irrespective of age, perceives, thinks and understands the environment through the natural/ genetic factors as well as through learning. It encompasses aspects like memory which is connected with remembering concepts, information processing, reasoning and development of speech/ language.
From the description of cognitive development, it therefore follows that it a process that should be nurtured from birth to enhance it as failure to do this may cause a problem even if it is later in life (Olson 43).
Many theories have been put forward in an effort to explain the concept of cognitive development and make responsible people for instance parents and teachers to be in a better place to foster it. One of the well- known theories of cognitive development is the Piaget’s theory of cognitive development.
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According to Oakley (13), the Piaget’s theory is built on the principle that cognitive development in an individual occurs in a series of four discrete but universal phases/stages. The stages are interdependent and each is built on what was learnt in the earlier stage. The stages are as follows; infancy/ sensorimotor stage, pre-operational stage/ toddlerhood and childhood, concrete operational stage/ elementary and early adolescence and formal operational stage which include adolescence and adulthood.
During infancy stage, intelligence, which is an aspect of cognitive development, is expressed through motor activity and no symbols are involved. Knowledge of the environment is limited but develops fast depending on physical interactions as well as experiences. It is at this stage that a child develops memory and intellectual abilities as well as speech attributes.
At the pre-operational stage, intelligence can clearly be expressed through use of symbols. Language also matures greatly and memory and imagination is a level higher than in the infancy stage. Thinking is there, although it is not logical and reversible. The third phase of cognitive development is concrete operational stage. The unique characteristic in this stage is that intelligence is expressed through manipulation of symbols connected to definite items in a rational and systematic manner.
Thinking in this stage is logical and reversible and memory is well developed. The are seven types of conservations exhibited by individuals in this stage, namely; volume, mass, weight, number, liquid and length. Formal operational stage is the last stage according to the Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. It encompasses adolescence and adulthood. Here an individual is well developed and intelligence is expressed through the logical use of symbols.
Thinking is multidimensional and memory is well developed. Decision making is better and one has the capability of solving problems. Failure to have effective cognitive development lead to problems related with intelligence which may make a person to be perceived to be abnormal due to behavior that is considered to be unacceptable for a normal individual. They are commonly referred to as mentally retarded people (Schumann par 2).
Nutrition and child development
Nutrition is a basic necessity when it comes to child growth and development. It is the food we eat that determines the rate of growth as well as the health status of an individual depending on the nutrients consumed.
Different foods provide different nutrients to the body which are significant for various roles they play in the body (Okie 24). Proteins for example are required for growth and protection or repair of worn out tissues, vitamins are needed for making one resistant to infections, starch and carbohydrates are for body building and energy supply.
Minerals are also a necessity as they help keeping the body fit and resistant to various issues like diseases. A balanced diet is essential for healthy growth and development of a child. A balanced diet allows children to be more physically active as they have the energy needed. It also enhances proper growth and weight as well as strong bones and muscles. Another contribution of a balanced diet is improved learning.
Whole grains should be offered in the children diets as opposed to processed foods. Green vegetables and fresh fruits are also good. Milk and milk products also enhance growth through provision of calcium necessary for healthy bones and teeth. Poor nutrition causes delayed physical growth, poor cognitive development including lower IQs, behavioral and social problems, and poor attention and learning level as well as poor academic performance (Gross, Donna and Christine 17)
Importance of breast feeding
Breastfeeding is crucial to every child. It is the meal that is advocated for by medical practitioners since it provides a child with the necessary nutrients required for the proper growth and development of a child. It is advised that a mother should breast feed a child for as long as she can preferably without weaning for the first 6 months.
The breast milk is usually healthy with no form of contamination as compared to formula which is largely dependent on hygiene standards. Breastfeeding however depends with the strength of the mother which is in return dependent on her nutrition as well as health status. Some mothers also prefer formula to breastfeeding due to the convenience involved.
All in all, breastfeeding is more important and beneficial than formula since it defends a child against different infections such as respiratory problems, diarrhea, ear infections and meningitis, prevent allergies that are associated with various foods and also safeguards a child from various chronic health conditions. Breastfeeding also avoids digestion problems that go hand in hand with formula.
Breastfeeding is not only beneficial to the child but also to the mother. The child enjoys the benefit of nutrition while the mother enjoys psychological benefits, that is, the bonding that develops naturally, through breastfeeding, between the child and the mother. It also gives the mother confidence in carrying out other duties, which is drawn from her ability to take good care of the child.
Breastfeeding is also associated with health benefits for instance reducing chances of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and high blood pressure in the mother. Although the nutritional value of breast milk is perceived not to be key as it can be substituted by formula, nothing can meet its level of nutrition perfectly. The psychological aspect can also never be substituted and there could be no attachment between the mother and the child if it is not offered (Coon 47).
Behaviors of babies
Babies exhibit various behaviors depending on the situations they face. As children are born, they continue with the process of growth and many changes occur in regard to their abilities and behavior.
During the first eighteen months, there is usually fast physical growth and development that is associated with various aspects for instance increase in weight, intelligence capabilities and learning to do various things for example talking and walking. Trust is also an aspect that is developed within this stage and children learn to identify the individuals from whom they can get their needs (Newman and Philip 121)
Children also become sensitive to various things as they grow. They reach a point where they require too much attention from their parents and caregivers as they explore the environment to the maximum hence risking their lives. Towards the age of one and a half years, they may show signs of anger and frustrations and may as well be rebellious, failing to follow orders. This is a situation that should be dealt with in an effective manner to avoid complicating the situation.
Parents and caregivers should for example respect the child’s feelings and explain any move taken to avoid developing hatred. Some behavior could be interesting while others are disgusting and may make parents to respond in an ineffective manner that may ruin the child’s growth and development. To avoid this, parents should accept that this is a normal aspect and happens for a period of time after which the child may be able to understand punishment (Banuelos par 6).
Babies and the environment
Babies and children are to a great extent molded by the environment in which they live. The environment affects their development whereby an appropriate environment fosters effective development while a poor environment may cause poor development. An environment includes what surrounds the baby/ child.
Acts of affection and love for example holding and touching are very essential to an infant’s development particularly emotional and neurological development. Lack of physical contact and affection leads to some developmental slow down that could have adverse effects to the child later in life for instance the child could grow to be anti-social and aggressive during adolescence and adulthood stages.
An environment that allows for freedom of interaction results to proper development of a child in regard to social aspects while an environment associated with restrictions may hinder a child’s ability to develop socially which could in return affect later life where a person may prefer to be isolated from others for safety as they consider interaction to be risky.
A child who is brought up in a friendly environment that appreciates everybody is likely to have a good social life as opposed to a child brought up in an aggressive and violent environment that advocates for revenge as opposed to problem solving (Berryman et al 102).
Fathers and babies
Fathers are a very important element in a family and cannot be underemphasized when it comes to child development. Just like the mothers they also have a role to play to ensure that their children grow and develop in an appropriate way. Their participation alone is enough to make a difference leave alone participation in child upbringing and hence a difference in a child brought about by a single mother and that brought up in the presence of parents, mother and father.
According to the Office on child abuse and neglect, U.S. Children’s Bureau, Rosenberg, and Wilcox (par 1), fathers pay a great role in a child’s development. There is a direct connection between fathers and what the children result to be even as adults.
This can be easily seen through aspects of development such as cognitive capabilities, academic performance, and psychological well being, as well as how they interact and carry out their social undertakings. “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home; fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring” (Office on child abuse and neglect, U.S. Children’s Bureau, and Bradford par 2).
Active involvement of fathers in the lives of their children has proved to be very instrumental in the cognitive ability and academic performance of their children. The IQ is usually high and they develop better linguistic capabilities. They have a tendency to be ready to go to school and learn early enough.
They also have an ability to deal with various situations including stress and frustrations as compared to children whose fathers are either absent or less involved. Fathers’ involvement also impacts on the psychological and social well being of a child. Children who grow in the presence of their fathers grow up to be emotional and psychologically secure and have confident in their endeavors hence end up forming healthy relationships with peers a well as older individuals.
Fathers play a great role in shaping a child’s behavior in dealing with various situations thorough allowing for some independence and orientating them to the outside world. “In addition, numerous studies have found that children who live with their fathers are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, to achieve academically, and to avoid drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior” (Office on child abuse and neglect, U.S. Children’s Bureau, and Bradford par 3).
Fathers are deemed to influence a child’s development through the relationship they keep with their mothers. A father who has a healthy and admirable relationship with a child’s mother leads to a healthy development of the child. This is because a good parents’ relationship fosters togetherness in the family and the father is likely to spend enough time with the children as opposed to where there are some misunderstanding between them which in turn affects the children.
A boy who observe his father having respect towards his mother learns to handle females with due respect and girls on the other hand expect men to handle them with respect and hence they tend to engage in healthy relationships even later in life. Fathers should however be prepared early enough to take the responsibility of parenting (The World.com par 4).
To bring out the issue of how difficult it is for new parents to bring up babies especially the first child, I conducted a survey among 20 young parents around the college where most of them agreed that they surely had a difficulty in taking care of their first baby and hence needed some education to impact them with relevant information in regard to taking care of their children. Because of convenience and proximity of my respondents I used interviews and questionnaires to get the information from these parents.
Some of the responses that confirmed this argument include the fact that most of them said they did not know how to prepare for the unborn child in terms of taking care of it. Another problem was that of handling different child behaviors for instance detecting the problem once they cry. The problem could either be out of hunger, illness or some form of discomfort but distinguishing the cause becomes difficult for them.
This is one of the responses I got; “I become very hopeless in trying to identify the problem my child has and I end up taking him to hospital for reasons I could solve” Smith Jones. Another issue that was raised by the parents is that of correcting bad behaviors that they observe in their children. From all the responses I came to a conclusion that bringing up children is not an easy task especially for young parents who have no prior experience.
Babies/ child development is a continuous process that is worth extra attention by all individuals involved especially the parents. It is a process that is influenced by a variety of factors for instance nutrition, parental involvement including love and support and the environment.
Proper care and attention enhances growth and development while lack of support to a child from infancy stage affects development negatively. Most parents affect their children negatively due to lack of knowledge of the consequences of their actions upon them or rather what they should adhere to, to ensure that their children maintain a healthy growth and development process throughout the stages they go through in life.
This is because a single disruption may cause a medical condition that could be very hard to control. For this reason, there should be educational campaigns to educate parents, especially the young ones without experience, on the factors that influence a child’s growth so that they may be ready to bring up their children in an appropriate manner that promotes healthy development from infancy all through to adulthood.
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