Brain development affected by early experiences – study

TVNZ 05 May 2009

The environment in which children are raised has a great impact in developing their brains to acquire social and moral skills, according to a new study. Love and security, or lack of it, offered by parents and caregivers was a critical factor in how children coped as adults with issues as diverse as family violence, crime, social and educational success, and mental health, the authors found. The report – Healthy Families, Young Minds and Developing Brains – was compiled for the Families Commission. It brings together research from a range of sources, both here and overseas, and puts it in a New Zealand context.

Authors Charles and Kasia Waldegrave found that the environment in which children grew up had an impact on their developing brains which, in turn, affected how well they picked up everything from language and writing to important social and moral skills, such as knowing how to control their emotions and desires, and have empathy for others. “In loving, nurturing environments the child’s brain will develop normally, said Charles Waldegrave, a well-published researcher based at The Family Centre. But recent developments in neuroscience and child development show that ongoing experiences of neglect, abuse or violence can seriously damage development in children, leading to long-term impairment of their intellectual, emotional and social functioning.”
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