An Overview of Early Childhood Development and Key Concepts

Parental care shapes early childhood development. Neglect, the lack of adequate parental care, is a serious threat to early childhood development. Overexposure to stress – “toxic stress” weakens development, while strong relationships with parents provide protection and build resilience.

1. Mechanics of early childhood development, key concepts


The human brain develops continuously throughout childhood development, from prenatal to adulthood. Like the construction of a building, the foundations are laid early. The brain is built from the bottom up at clearly defined stages of development. This is why early support for development is so important. A stronger foundation not only means that the child is further ahead at a given time, it also means that learning and development can progress faster in the future.

Early childhood development sees the brain develop extremely quickly. Billions of new connections are created every hour between neurons in different parts of the brain. After this rapid proliferation, brain development shifts towards efficiency. Some neural connections are made stronger and faster, and others are pruned and lost. Meanwhile, the brain makes more complex connections later in childhood and adolescence in relation to more advanced skills.

Brain development basically shapes early child developmental stages. More basic capacities such as vision, hearing, and touch develop earlier. Then comes the development of more complex capacities such as communication, understanding facial expressions, reasoning and decision making. High-level skills such as maintaining attention, setting goals, following rules, solving problems, and controlling impulses begin to develop in early childhood and continue into adolescence.

Children’s experiences of the world—how they see, hear, and feel, and how they relate to parents and other caregivers—shape every aspect of the brain’s development. This strengthens some circuits and allows others to disappear. Some neural bonds are strengthened by experience, while others are pruned.

genetics and epigenetics

The genes that children inherit from their mothers and fathers give them certain predispositions and sensitivities that affect early child development. For example, some children naturally experience less fear than others, and those who are less afraid may be less prone to long-term anxiety and depression.

Experiences in the world, including relationships within the family and society, can affect how genes are activated rather than directly in the genes themselves. Positive and negative experiences result in the production of proteins that regulate gene activity, creating temporary or permanent changes in the “epigenome.” These epigenetic changes in the way genes are expressed can be inherited by the next generation. For example, the offspring of Holocaust survivors men and women inherited epigenetic changes associated with response to extreme stress.

2. Early child development areas

While researchers still debate how to define the different components of early childhood development, a number of concepts have become mainstream in this area.

The three most discussed areas of development cognitive (thinking), social and emotional. Studies have shown that they are closely linked. Their development is associated with neural activity in the entire brain.

Connections can also be seen in children’s behavior. For example, children develop thinking skills through relationships with caregivers. A child with high social skills will generally develop cognitive skills faster.

3. Basic skills that are founded in early childhood:

self regulation

It is an automatic and impulsive response to risk and danger, commonly known as the “fight or flight response,” in a part of the brain called the amygdala. Self-regulation is the ability to bring a more conscious response to a situation and figure out how to respond in that moment. More planned responses can counteract the initial fight-or-flight instinct. The ability to regulate emotion is a vital skill acquired in early childhood, in part through relationship with caregivers.

executive function

Executive function is a skill set that emerges in early child development, laying the foundations for learning and interacting well with others. Researchers have divided executive function into several different skills:

working memory– to store and use information for a short time.

mental flexibility(or cognitive flexibility) – rapid adaptation in response to external stimuli. self control (or inhibitory control) – resistance to impulsive behavior. during a mission maintaining focus and attention.

To solve problems.

Obey the rules.

Determination of targets.

For more rewards later delaying “instant gratification”.

Developing executive function is an important part of early childhood development stages. By the age of three, basic executive functions come into play – remembering and enforcing simple rules. Skills develop largely between the ages of three and five, but continue to develop into adolescence.

These more advanced stages of early child development involve increasing the speed and efficiency of neural circuits that act in different parts of the brain.

4. Parental care shapes early child development

Sensitive care and experience of the world from parents, the wider family, and everyone involved in a child’s life shapes children’s development. Researchers coined the term “serve and return” to describe mutual actions with parents and caregivers.

Multiple relationships It enhances social and emotional development by improving the child’s ability to maintain strong relationships in the future. A child with multiple stable and caring relationships

has the advantage. Conversely, a child without even a stable and responsive relationship is at a serious disadvantage.

Researchers used the term “scaffolding” to describe the environment that caregivers can create for children to practice their skills. Scaffolding includes establishing routines, modeling social behaviors, activating creative play, facilitating social connection, and encouraging physical exercise.

5. Threats to healthy early child development: neglect and toxic stress


The most common risk to children in the world is the lack of responsive care, known as neglect: 78% of all cases of child maltreatment in the world are related to neglect, and this can have a more detrimental effect on early child development than physical abuse.

Like physical abuse, neglect severely impairs early childhood development of the brain by depriving children of appropriate relationships, thereby altering the development of biological stress-response systems. Neglect is related to numerous bad consequences in children’s later life – mental health, physical health, social relationships and educational achievement.

toxic stress

As part of learning how to deal with challenges, stress is a normal and important part of early child development. A threat triggers physiological changes associated with the hormone cortisol, which promotes a rapid response to reduce danger. A child exposed to simple stressors and protected by strong relationships with adults learns to cope with stress and regulate the stress response system. Strong relationships can also alleviate the potentially damaging effects of high stress levels caused by events such as the death of a loved one, serious injury, or a local disaster.

Excessive and prolonged stress, called toxic stress, is not a normal part of early child development. Examples of toxic stress include physical and emotional abuse, chronic neglect, inadequate care due to drugs or mental illness, persistent poverty and exposure to prolonged violence.

Exposure to chaos and constant threat impairs the development of self-regulation, trapping children in an instinctive fight-and-flight response. Toxic stress, which undermines early childhood developmental stages, is associated with many bad outcomes later in life.

Building resilience through relationships

Relationships with caregivers are key to protecting children from the negative effects of stress. Such care early in life can prevent or even reverse the harmful effects of toxic stress.

Resistance arises when a stressed child also accesses reliable and nurturing relationships. A child’s increased physiological response to stress can be restored by engaging with a caring adult. Exposure to stress in the presence of a caring adult can help the child feel some control of the situation and develop self-regulation.

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