10 Child Development Facts All Parents Should Know

developmentWhen it comes to parenting, there are almost as many incorrect myths and pieces of bad advice as there are scientifically sound facts passed around. From the moment you announce your impending addition to the family, you’ll be inundated with unsolicited advice of questionable veracity. These ten developmental facts, however, are among those that you should arm yourself with so that you are prepared and well informed about your little one’s growth.

  • Babies Are All Born Too Early – Because women’s bodies are built for both walking upright and carrying children, their pelvises are physiologically incapable of carrying an infant to what would be full term. That’s why many parenting experts use the term “fourth trimester” to describe the first weeks of a baby’s life. Your child is not quite fully formed at the time of her delivery, which is why she’s so needy and relatively aloof to social contact. Dr. Harvey Karp, renowned parenting expert, is a champion of the Fourth Trimester parenting style and covers it heavily in his Happiest Baby on the Block series of bestselling parenting books.
  • Development is Influenced By Both Genetics and Environment – The debate about “nature versus nurture” may still rage, but the unique interaction between genetic material and the environment in which your child grows has a very real impact on how she reaches maturity. Old wives’ tales may take either side of the debate, but the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
  • Physical Development Follows a Directional Pattern – The center of your child’s body will develop first, with large muscles developing before the smaller ones. The process then becomes something akin to a top-down one, as your child’s head develops before her arms and legs.
  • Baby Talk is Beneficial – While your mother-in-law may insist that baby talk is bad for your infant and that you should only speak to him in complete sentences from the moment of his birth, there is actually some indication that baby talk is critical to infant development, according to neuroscientist Lise Eliot. Exaggerated tones and slow structure emphasize the critical components of language and make it easier for your little one to absorb words.
  • The Developmental Timeline Can Vary From Child to Child – The developmental milestones in parenting books and websites provide a good basic outline for the timeline of development, but it’s important to understand that there is quite a bit of wiggle room in that prescribed timeline. Slight delays aren’t necessarily cause for concern.
  • Corporal Punishment Can Hinder Intellectual Development – A study presented by University of New Hampshire professor Murray Straus showed a marked correlation between spanking and a lowered IQ, with the average discrepancy being four points. That means that children who are disciplined with corporal punishment do seem to exhibit adverse reactions, in terms of development.
  • Even Educational Television Doesn’t Aid in Infant Development – No matter how well a DVD system is marketed, it will not help your child become a genius when she’s an infant. That’s because infants tend to respond only to things that respond to them. No matter how advanced a DVD is, it can’t respond to the cues provided by your infant and, as such, are largely useless. Playing with your baby and interacting with her has far more value than the most expensive system of videos because you will respond to her cues.
  • Babies and Older Children Respond to Sounds Differently – Your toddler or preschooler isn’t necessarily ignoring you when she doesn’t respond to your calls while she’s in a crowded room. Kids actually find it more difficult to differentiate between background noise and speaking voices, which could be the reason why she’s not responding to your calls.
  • Right and Wrong are Learned Concepts – Before she reaches at least one year of age, your child does not understand the difference between right and wrong. That’s why sharing and cooperative play can be challenging at such a young age. A study published by Dr. Heather Paradis at the University of Rochester Medical Center shows that most parents aren’t aware of that fact. Before you punish your little one for doing “wrong,” stop to realize that she can’t even process that concept yet.
  • It Really Does Take a Village – The old adage about it taking a village to raise a child actually does hold water, it seems. Research published in Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development shows that kids do best when they have at least three consistent, loving and supportive adult influences in their lives.
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