Self-education is key to aiding your Child’s Cognitive Development

Congratulations! If you are online researching reliable, authoritative information on your child’s health and development (and if you’re on the MBM website, you must be), you are already ahead as you are statistically more likely to provide a positive early environment for your baby’s development.

This assertion follows the results of a study of low-income families in the United States which looked to establish whether parents’ knowledge of their children’s cognitive development in any way influenced early-stage brain development.

Pleasingly, the results were clear: parents who take greater steps to educate themselves are more likely to provide their offspring with an environment that engenders significant intellectual and social development.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the same parents who took steps to self-educate were more likely to respond to their children and to be sensitive to both verbal and non-verbal cues.

A question of health policy

The research raises some important questions, not least whether governments as well as doctors, midwives and health visitors should be doing more to encourage greater knowledge of childhood cognitive and language development among parents.

The study, which was reported in The Journal of Pediatrics, looked at the experience of 468 parents of full-term newborns and asked them questions at one week following birth and during a second session at nine months in which they were also instructed to complete a five-minute exercise with their child while being observed by the researchers.

Interestingly, parents who had more knowledge and interest in cognitive development at one week were more likely to show enhanced caregiving at nine-months. They were also more likely to be “warm and positive” in tone and to allow greater scope for development.

It is hoped that the research might lead to increased guidance for new parents to help them understand the processes of cognitive and language development. As it stands, the NHS is heavily focussed on help related to breastfeeding and weight gain in newborns, and only 1% of parents ask questions about cognition and language.

“In the first few years of life, what is fundamentally building a child’s brain is the nurturing ‘serve-and-return’ between parent and baby – that rich, warm language of cooing back and forth,” commented one of the researchers, Dr. Dana Suskind, a professor of surgery and pediatrics and co-director of the TMW Center for Early Learning and Public Health at the University of Chicago told Reuters Health.

Ensuring better outcomes

Only a tiny fraction of new parents do not consider the interests of their children to be of paramount importance. However, until now, most have taken the issue of linguistic and cognitive development for granted, but they are not alone in their complacence; paediatricians too have failed to provide adequate support and guidance.

Hopefully this new research is going to clear the way for a whole new beneficial approach to childhood development.