Child Development News
What do grown-ups know about child development?
A 1997 landmark survey sponsored by Zero to Three, among others, revealed a surprising lack of accurate child development information among adults. According to Kyle Pruett, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry at Yale University Child Study Center, and president of Zero to Three, “We’re potentially raising overly aggressive children who react to situations with intimidation and bullying, instead of cooperation and understanding; children who won’t be able to tolerate frustration, wait their turn, or respect the needs of others.”
The survey was called “What Grown-Ups Understand About Child Development: A National Benchmark Survey,” and looked at the child development knowledge of 3000 adults. The results show that adults need more and better information in the areas of spoiling and spanking, their expectations of kids at different ages, and the best kinds of play.
- Find out a little more about the survey from Zero to Three, respond to a sample of the survey questions, and check your answers.
- 57 percent of parents of young children (0-6 years of age) and 62 percent of all adults incorrectly believe a six-month-old can be spoiled.
- 44 percent of parents of young children and 60 percent of grandparents incorrectly believe picking up a three-month-old every time he cries will spoil the child.
You cannot spoil babies by responding to their needs. Babies do not use crying to manipulate their parents, they cry when something is wrong. From day one, infants and young children need to be responded to, so they can develop trust that their needs matter to the adults in their lives. When you don’t pick up a crying baby, his or her stress levels will grow, which slows learning. See Parenting.
- 61 percent of parents of young children condone spanking as a "regular form of punishment" for young children, while research indicates it's detrimental to a child's development.
- 37 percent think spanking is appropriate for children under two years of age.
Spanking can cause children to act more aggressively, and will not lead to better self-control. Spanking babies and toddlers cannot teach them anything but to distrust bigger, more powerful people. See Parenting and Behavior Problems for ideas for positive discipline.
- 51 percent of parents of young children expect a 15-month-old to share her toys, and 26 percent of all adults expect a three-year-old to sit quietly for one hour at a time - both unrealistic expectations, according to experts.
See Developmental Milestones for more on what you can realistically expect of your child.
- 26 percent of all adults, and 23 percent of parents of young children believe that a child as young as six-months will not suffer any long-term effects from witnessing violence.
Child development research shows being exposed to violence can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on a child's social and emotional development and his developing brain.
- 61 percent of all adults, and 55 percent of parents with young children, do not know that young babies sense and are affected by the moods of others. This is crucial because child development research shows that if a caregiver is particularly anxious or depressed, it can have a damaging effect on a baby's development.
If you are caring for a baby or child, and are having problems with anxiety or depression, one of the best things you can do for that child is to get help for yourself.
- 40 percent of parents of young children incorrectly believe that when a 12-month-old turns the TV on and off repeatedly while her parents are trying to watch it, it is because she is "angry and trying to get back at them."
At a year old, a baby is unable to plot to “get her parents!” She is just experimenting to see what happens in her world when she keeps pushing that red button on the TV. Kids need to try a new thing over and over to learn how the world works. Think of the child who drops his spoon from his highchair 70 times every meal for months on end. We wish we could just explain gravity to him, and he would take our word for it!
- 72 percent of parents of young children were unaware that children as young as four months of age, can experience real depression; 51 percent believe children cannot be depressed until they are at least three years old.
- Many parents place too much emphasis on less valuable forms of play, such as flashcards, educational television and computer activities.
- Parents also don't understand the importance of the connection between physical play, such as playground activities, and intellectual development.
Play is the work of children, and as such, is crucial to their development. Unfortunately, children spend less time in play than they did just a couple decades ago. Children learn about the world by playing and interacting with you. Your everyday interactions with your young children are the best way for them to learn. Turn off the TV, video games and computer, and get your children involved in helping you cook, reading aloud, a game of “let’s pretend,” or a trip to the playground. Find out what recent research shows aboutchildren's activities, achievement and well-being. See Parenting for more on how kids learn and how parents can help them learn. Learn more about the power of play from birth to three in this report from Zero to Three.
What Adults Do Understand
- Children's capabilities are not fully predetermined at birth and, in fact, parents and caregivers play a major role in their development.
- Early experiences, even in the first months of life, have a significant impact on a child's capabilities much later in life.
- Showing your children love has a profound impact on their intellectual, social and emotional development.
The results of the survey make it clear that adults need more and better information on child development, and they need it to be accessible. The Your Child website is here to help get information out there, and thus, help make the world a better place for our kids.
--Kyla Boyse, R.N.
Reviewed by faculty and staff at the University of Michigan
Updated June 2007
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Our editorial policy
The information and links we provide are reviewed by University of Michigan developmental and behavioral pediatricians and child psychologists who are experts in child behavioral health. In choosing the links we provide, we use strict criteria to ensure that the information is accurate, and the source is reputable. As much as possible, we focus on information that is based on research. In areas where there is inadequate research, we include information compatible with prevailing expert opinion.
This website is updated regularly, but because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, we cannot be responsible for misinformation that may be accessed through the links provided. As always, this website is not a tool for self-diagnosis, and is not a substitute for professional care.