What We Identified

Researchers estimate that 80 percent of total brain development happens from birth to age 5 (with much of the change happening within a child’s first two years).

A major ingredient in this developmental process is the “serve and return” between children and their parents and other caregivers in the family or community. Young children naturally reach out for interaction through babbling, facial expressions, and gestures, and adults respond with the same kind of vocalizing and gesturing back at them.

In the absence of such responses—or if the responses are unreliable or inappropriate—the brain’s architecture does not form as expected, which can lead to disparities in learning and behavior.

Children in low income families must often do without such developmental opportunities because parents in low income families often lack the financial resources, time, knowledge or some combination thereof to provide the interaction and learning needed.

 

Additionally, the unrelenting struggles that low income families often face can be toxic to the developing brain.

“Toxic stress” is the strong, unrelieved activation of the body’s stress management system. In the absence of the buffering protection of adult support, toxic stress becomes built into the body by processes that shape the architecture of the developing brain.

Toxic stress and a lack of developmental opportunities in a child’s formative years can forever shape who that child is physically, mentally, and emotionally. Therefore, intervening as early as possible will be more efficient and will lead to a more favorable outcome in the long run.

However, the environment and fortunes of a child’s family is often just as influential on children’s development as external interventions. Addressing the development of parents/guardians in addition to those of their children will have the best chance of allowing interventions to succeed and strengthening the family as a whole.

GettyImages 639403466 2
Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) Pre-K
Collaborating to provide early childhood development to hundreds of preschool children in Northwest Arkansas.