22. December 2011 14:37
The New Republic recently published an article by Jonathan Cohn titled “The Two Year Window” that emphasizes the consequences of neglect and abuse on very young children. This article compels us to invest in children during their earliest years – from birth through age two. Though the article is a must-read in its entirety, the Partnership wanted to share a few key points here on our blog.
- Approximately seven million American infants, toddlers and preschoolers receive care from somebody other than a relative, whether through organized child care or more informal arrangements. Much of that care is not good.
- Hundreds of thousands of children are born to teenage mothers, of which 60% live in poverty.
- An estimated few hundred thousand children suffer from serious abuse and neglect. New research shows again that neglect of very young children does not merely stunt emotional development; it changes the architecture of their brains.
- Just as, for example, a baby who endures prolonged abuse or neglect is likely to end up with an enlarged amygdala (the part of the brain that helps generate the fear response), babies who perceive threats (i.e. - a wet diaper left unchanged, hunger) that are constantly ignored will experience wear and tear on their developing brains; their coping and thinking mechanisms forever altered.
- Children who fail to develop coping mechanisms struggle in school because they can't focus, sit still, read, they have trouble standing in line, they lash out at teachers and classmates. These struggles, naturally, lead to other problems that perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
- Young children who experience early adversity (such as abusive parenting and economic hardship) are more likely to have a diminished IQ and mental health problems. A 2010 study from Psychological Medicine concluded that childhood adversities were associated with about one in five cases of severely impairing mental disorders and about one in four anxiety disorders in adulthood.
- When we invest in children early – as soon as the mother is pregnant with that child – we see long-term positive outcomes. One example is the Nurse-Family Partnership (tested in the '70s and '80s), modeled after a home visiting program for pregnant mothers and children birth to age 2. Two long-term studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that adolescents whose mothers had been in the program were less likely to run away, get arrested, or consume alcohol or tobacco. Reports of child abuse were lower by about 50 percent.
- According to research by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, children get about half as many taxpayer resources, per person, as do the elderly. And among children, the youngest get the least.
To read the article in full, click here.