The well being--good health handbook

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Practical advice, tools and audio guides to help you feel mentally and emotionally better. Home Back to Home. Live Well Advice, tips and tools to help you make the best choices about your health and wellbeing. Eat well All you need to know about the major food groups and a healthy, balanced diet. Healthy weight Check your BMI using our healthy weight calculator and find out if you're a healthy weight. Exercise Programmes, workouts and tips to get you moving and improve your fitness and wellbeing.

Sleep and tiredness Find out how to sleep well and the common lifestyle factors that are making you tired. Parents tend to make child care decisions based on structural teacher education and training and process activities, parent-provider communication features, although their choices also vary by family income, education, and work schedules. Sosinsky and Kim , for example, found that higher maternal education and income and being white were associated with the likelihood of parents choosing higher-quality child care programs that were associated with better child outcomes.

Based on a survey of parents of children in a large public school system, Goldring and Phillips found that parents' involvement, not satisfaction with their child's school, was associated with school decision making. It should be noted that while parents may know what constitutes high-quality child care and education, structural availability of quality programs and schools , individual work, income, belief , and child temperament, age factors also influence these decision-making processes Meyers and Jordan, ; Shlay, Taking another example, limited studies have looked at parental awareness of services for children with special needs.

A study that utilized a survey and qualitative interviews with parents of children with autism indicated that parents' autism spectrum disorder service knowledge partially mediates the relationship between socioeconomic status and use of services for their children Pickard and Ingersoll, Although considerable discussion has focused on attitudes and beliefs broadly, less research attention has been paid to the effects of parenting attitudes on parents' interactions with young children or on parenting practices.

Few causal analyses are available to test whether parenting attitudes actually affect parenting practices, positive parent-child interaction, and child development. Even less research exists on fathers' attitudes about parenting. Given this limited evidence base, the committee drew primarily on correlational and qualitative studies in examining parenting attitudes. Parents' attitudes toward parenting are a product of their knowledge of parenting and the values and goals or expectations they have for their children's development, which in turn are informed by cultural, social, and societal images, as well as parents' experiences and their overall values and goals Cabrera et al.

People in the United States hold several universal, or near universal, beliefs about the types of parental behaviors that promote or impair child development. For example, there is general agreement that striking a child in a manner that can cause severe injury, engaging in sexual activity with a child, and failing to provide adequate food for and supervision of young children such as leaving toddlers unattended pose threats to children's health and safety and are unacceptable. At the same time, some studies identify differences in parents' goals for child development, which may influence attitudes regarding the roles of parents and have implications for efforts to promote particular parenting practices.

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While there is variability within demographic groups in parenting attitudes and practices, some research shows differences in attitudes and practices among subpopulations. For example, qualitative research provides some evidence of variation by culture in parents' goals for their children's socialization. In one interview study, mothers who were first-generation immigrants to the United States from Central America emphasized long-term socialization goals related to proper demeanor for their children, while European American mothers emphasized self-maximization Leyendecker et al.

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In another interview study, Anglo American mothers stressed the importance of their young children developing a balance between autonomy and relatedness, whereas Puerto Rican mothers focused on appropriate levels of relatedness, including courtesy and respectful attentiveness Harwood et al. Other ethnographic and qualitative research shows that parents from different cultural groups select cultural values and norms from their country of origin as well as from their host country, and that their goal is for their children to adapt and succeed in the United States Rogoff, Similarly, whereas the larger U.

The importance of intergenerational connections e. The values and traditions of cultural communities may be expressed as differences in parents' views regarding gender roles, in parents' goals for children, and in their attitudes related to childrearing. Culturally men aren't that involved. The dad is the outer worker; the mother is the inner worker.

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If you are talking about the mom, they are the ones who care about the kids. They aren't typically working outside the home. But now, in the United States, the mothers are working outside the home. Although slowly changing, attitudes about the roles of men and women in the raising of young children often differ between men and women and among various communities in the United States. Research has shown that fathers of young children participate in child caregiving activities in increasing numbers Cabrera et al. Parents' values and goals related to childrearing, both overall and for specific demographic groups, also may shift from one generation to the next in the United States based on changing norms and viewpoints within social networks and cultural communities, as well as parents' knowledge of and access to new research and information provided by educators, health care providers, and others who work with families.

Relatively little research has been conducted on parents' attitudes toward specific parenting-related practices.


Much of the extant research focuses on practices related to promoting children's physical health and safety. Studies of varying designs indicate that parental attitudes and beliefs about the need for and safety of vaccination influence vaccination practices Mergler et al. Maternal attitudes and beliefs about breastfeeding e.

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Other studies have found differences among parents e. Parental involvement in children's education has been linked to academic readiness Fan and Chen, However, parents differ in their attitudes about the role of parents in children's learning and education Hammer et al. Some see parents as having a central role, while others view the school as the primary facilitator of children's education and see parents as having less of a role Hammer et al.

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  6. These attitudinal differences may be related to cultural expectations or parents' own education or comfort with teaching their children certain skills. Some parents, for example, may have lower involvement in their children's education because of insecurity about their own skills and past negative experiences in school Lareau, ; Lawrence-Lightfoot, And as discussed above, some parents view math skills as less important for their children relative to other types of skills and therefore are less likely to teach them in the home.

    Parents within and across different communities vary in their opinions and practices with respect to the role and significance of discipline. Some of the parenting literature notes that some parents use control to discipline children, while others aim to correct but not to control children Nieman and Shea, In a small cross-cultural ethnographic study, Mosier and Rogoff found that some parents regard rules and punishment as inappropriate for infants and toddlers. The approach valued by these parents to help children understand what is expected of them is to cooperate with them, perhaps distracting them but not forcing their compliance.

    In contrast, many middle-class U. And ethnographic research provides some evidence of differences in African American and European American mothers' beliefs about spoiling and infant intentionality whether infants can intentionally misbehave related to the use of physical punishment with young children Burchinal et al. Parents' attitudes not only toward parenting but also toward providers in societal agencies—such as educators, social service personnel, health care providers, and police—which can be shaped by a variety of factors, including discrimination, are important determinants of parents' access to and ability to obtain support.

    Studies show a relationship between parents' distrust of agencies and their likelihood of rejecting participation in an intervention. For example, in systematic reviews of studies of various types, parents who distrust the medical community and government health agencies are less likely to have their children vaccinated Brown et al. Racial and ethnic minority parents whose attitudes about appropriate remedies for young children vary from those of the Western medical establishment often distrust and avoid treatment by Western medical practitioners Hannan, While not specific to parents, studies using various methodologies show that individuals who have experienced racial and other forms of discrimination, both within and outside of health care settings, are less likely to utilize various health services or to engage in other health-promoting behaviors Gonzales et al.

    In a survey study, African American parents' racism awareness was negatively associated with involvement in activities at their children's school McKay et al. Longitudinal studies, mostly involving families with older children, indicate that, like other sources of stress, parents' experience of discrimination can have a detrimental effect on parenting and the quality of the parent-child relationship Murray et al. As noted earlier, attitudes are shaped in part by parenting self-efficacy—a parent's perceived ability to influence the development of his or her child.

    Parenting self-efficacy has been found to influence parenting competence including engagement in some parenting practices as well as child functioning Jones and Prinz, Studies show associations between maternal self-efficacy and children's self-regulation, social, and cognitive skills Murry and Brody, ; Swick and Hassell, Self-efficacy also may apply to parents' confidence in their capacity to carry out specific parenting practices.

    For example, parents who reported a sense of efficacy in influencing their elementary school-age children's school outcomes were more likely to help their children with school activities at home Anderson and Minke, A multimethod study of African American families found that maternal self-efficacy was related to children's regulatory skills through its association with competence-promoting parenting practices, which included family routines, quality of mother-child interactions based on observer ratings, and teachers' reports of mothers' involvement with their children's schools Brody et al.

    Henshaw and colleagues found in a longitudinal study that higher breastfeeding self-efficacy predicted exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months postpartum, as well as better emotional adjustment of mothers in the weeks after giving birth. Parenting practices have been studied extensively, with some research showing strong associations between certain practices and positive child outcomes. This section describes parenting practices that research indicates are central to helping children achieve basic outcomes in the areas discussed at the beginning of the chapter: physical health and safety, emotional and behavioral competence, social competence, and cognitive competence.

    While these outcomes are used as a partial organizing framework for this section, several specific practices—contingent responsiveness of parents, organization of the home environment and the importance of routines, and behavioral discipline practices—that have been found to influence child well-being in more than one of these four outcome areas are discussed separately. Parents influence the health and safety of their children in many ways. However, the difficulty of using random assignment designs to examine parenting practices that promote children's health and safety has resulted in a largely observational literature.

    This section reviews the available evidence on a range of practices in which parents engage to ensure the health and safety of their children. It begins with breastfeeding—a subject about which there has historically been considerable discussion in light of generational shifts and commercial practices that have affected children in poor families.

    Breastfeeding Breastfeeding has myriad well-established short- and long-term benefits for both babies and mothers. Breast milk bolsters babies' immunity to infectious disease, regulates healthy bacteria in the intestines, and overall is the best source of nutrients to help babies grow and develop. Breastfeeding also supports bonding between mothers and their babies. Breastfeeding may benefit mothers' health as well by lowering risk for postpartum depression, certain cancers, and chronic diseases such as diabetes U.

    Department of Health and Human Services, Current guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the WHO recommend mothers breastfeed exclusively until infants are 6 months old.

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    Thereafter and until the child is either age 1 year American Academy of Pediatrics, or 2 years World Health Organization, , it is recommended that children continue to be breastfed while slowly being introduced to other foods. According to data from the CDC a , about 80 percent of babies born in the United States are breastfed including fed breast milk for some duration, and about 50 percent and 27 percent are breastfed to any extent with or without the addition of complementary liquids or solids at 6 and 12 months, respectively.

    Forty percent and 19 percent are exclusively breastfed through 3 and 6 months, respectively. Mothers in the United States often cite a number of reasons for not initiating or continuing breastfeeding, including lack of knowledge about how to breastfeed, difficulty or pain during breastfeeding, embarrassment, perceived inconvenience, and return to work Hurley et al. Low-income women with less education are less likely than women of higher socioeconomic status to breastfeed Heck et al. Some research with immigrant mothers shows that rates of breastfeeding decrease with each generation in the United States, possibly because of differences in acceptance of bottle feeding here as compared with other countries e.

    Nutrition and physical activity Parents play an important role in shaping their young children's nutrition and physical activity levels Institute of Medicine, ; Sussner et al. Among toddlers and preschool-age children, parents' feeding practices are associated with their children's ability to regulate food intake, which can affect weight status Faith et al.

    Parents' modeling of healthful eating habits for their children and offering of healthful foods, particularly during toddlerhood, when children are often reluctant to try new foods, may result in children being more apt to like and eat such foods Hill, ; Natale et al. The extant observational research generally shows that children's dietary intake particularly fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with food options available in the home and at school, and that parents are important role models for their children's dietary behaviors Cullen et al.

    Conversely, the presence of less nutritious food and beverage items in the home may increase children's risk of becoming overweight. For example, Dennison and colleagues and Welsh and colleagues found positive associations between overweight in children and their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. On the other hand, there are some indications that overly strict diets may increase children's preferences for high-fat, energy-dense foods, perhaps causing an imbalance in children's self-regulation of hunger and satiety and increasing the risk that they will become overweight Birch and Fisher, ; Farrow et al.

    A few cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, coupled with conventional wisdom, suggest that eating dinner together as a family is associated with increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and reduced consumption of fats and soda Gillman et al. However, these studies involved primarily older children and adolescents. Physical activity is a complement to good nutrition.

    Even in young children, physical activity is essential for proper energy balance and prevention of childhood obesity Institute of Medicine, ; Kohl and Hobbs, It also supports normal physical growth. Parents may encourage activity in young children through play e. Children who spend more time outdoors may be more active e. For many parents living in high-crime neighborhoods, however, most of whom are racial and ethnic minorities, the importance of safety overrides the significance of physical activity. In some neighborhoods, safety issues and lack of access to parks and other places for safe recreation make it difficult for families to spend time outdoors, leading parents to keep their children at home Dias and Whitaker, ; Gable et al.

    Although more of the research on screen time and sedentary behavior has focused on adolescents than on young children, several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies on younger children show an association between television viewing and overweight and inactivity Ariza et al. An analysis of data on 8, children participating in a longitudinal cohort study showed that those who watched more television during kindergarten and first grade were significantly more likely to be clinically overweight by the spring semester of third grade Gable et al. Although television, computers, and other screen media often are used for educational purposes with young children, these findings suggest that balancing screen time with other activities may be one way parents can promote their children's overall health.

    As with diet, children's sedentary behavior can be influenced by parents' own behaviors. For example, De Lepeleere and colleagues found an association between parents' screen time and that of their children ages in a cross-sectional study. Vaccination Parents protect their own and other children from potentially serious diseases by making sure they receive recommended vaccines. Among children born in a given year in the United States, childhood vaccination is estimated to prevent about 42, deaths and 20 million cases of disease Zhou et al.

    In , 82 percent of children ages months received combined-series vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis [DTP]; polio; measles, mumps, and rubella [MMR]; and Haemophilus influenzae type b [Hib] , up from 69 percent in Child Trends Databank, b. Vaccination rates are lower among low-income children; 71 percent of children ages months living below the poverty level received the combined-series vaccines listed above in Child Trends Databank, b. Although much of the media coverage on this subject has focused on middle-income parents averse to having their children vaccinated, it is in fact poverty that is thought to account for much of the disparity in vaccination rates by race and ethnicity Hill et al.

    As discussed earlier in this chapter, parental practices around vaccination may be influenced by parents' knowledge and interpretation of information on and their attitudes about vaccination. Preconception and prenatal care The steps women take with their health care providers before becoming pregnant can promote healthy pregnancy and birth outcomes for both mothers and babies. These include initiating certain supplements e. During pregnancy, receipt of recommended prenatal care can help parents reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and poor birth outcomes by promoting healthy behaviors e.

    Prior to the birth of a child, health care providers also can educate parents on the importance of breastfeeding, infant injury and illness prevention, and other practices. Infants born to mothers who do not receive prenatal care or who do not receive it until late in their pregnancy are more likely than those born to mothers who receive such care early in pregnancy to be born premature and at a low birth weight and are more likely to die.

    Since the s, there has been a decline in the number of women in the United States receiving late or no prenatal care, with the majority of pregnant women now receiving recommended prenatal care Child Trends Databank, a. Yet disparities among subgroups persist. The proportion of women receiving timely prenatal care increases with age: in , 25 percent of births to females under age 15 and 10 percent of births to females ages were to mothers receiving late or no prenatal care, compared with 7.

    Women whose pregnancies are unintended also are less likely to receive timely prenatal care. Despite the importance of timely and quality prenatal care, moreover, many parents experience barriers to receiving such care, including poor access and rural residence, limited knowledge of its importance, and mental illness Heaman et al. Injury prevention Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among children ages Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, c and a leading cause of disability for both younger and older children in the United States.

    In addition to motor vehicle-related injuries, children sustain unintentional injuries due, for example, to suffocation, falls, poisoning, and drowning in the home environment. About 1, children under age 9 in the United States die each year from injuries in the home Mack et al. Parents can protect their children from injury through various measures, such as ensuring proper use of automobile passenger restraints, insisting that children wear helmets while bike riding and playing sports, and creating a safe home environment e.

    Yet the limited available research on parents' use of safety measures suggests there is room for improvement in some areas. For instance, appropriate use of child restraint systems is known to reduce the risk of child motor vehicle-related injuries and deaths Arbogast et al. Likewise, using data from a national survey conducted during , Dellinger and Kresnow show that less than one-half of children ages always wore bicycle helmets while riding, and 29 percent never did so. More recent data on parents' home safety practices and on helmet usage among young children are lacking.

    Evidence that families' home safety practices affect child safety comes from intervention research. A large meta-analysis of randomized and nonrandomized controlled trials of home safety education interventions for families Kendrick et al. There was also some evidence for reduced injury rates among children. As discussed in Chapter 4 , helping parents reduce hazards in the home is a component of some home visiting programs.

    Parents also protect their children's safety by monitoring their whereabouts and activities to prevent them from both physical and psychological harm. The type of supervision may vary based on a child's needs and age as well as parents' values and economic circumstances. For all young children, monitoring for the purposes of preventing exposure to hazards is an important practice. As children grow older, knowing their friends and where the children are when they are not at home or in school also becomes important.

    As noted previously, research suggests the importance of monitoring screen time to children's well-being. And monitoring of children's Internet usage may prevent them from being exposed to online predators Finkelhor et al. Fundamental to children's positive development is the opportunity to grow up in an environment that responds to their emotional needs Bretherton, and that enables them to develop skills needed to cope with basic anxieties, fears, and environmental challenges.

    Parents' ability to foster a sense of belonging and self-worth in their children is vital to the children's early development. In much the same way, parents contribute to children's emerging social competence by teaching them skills—such as self-control, cooperation, and taking the perspective of others—that prepare them to develop and maintain positive relationships with peers and adults. Parents can promote the learning and acquisition of social skills by establishing strong relationships with their children. The importance of early parent-child interactions for children's social competence is embedded in many theoretical frameworks, such as attachment Ainsworth and Bowlby, , family system theories Cox and Paley, , and ecocultural theories Weisner, Parents socialize their children to adopt culturally appropriate values and behaviors that enable them to be socially competent and act as members of a social group.

    Research suggests that children who are socially competent are independent rather than suggestible, responsible rather than irresponsible, cooperative instead of resistive, purposeful rather than aimless, friendly rather than hostile, and self-controlled rather than impulsive Landy and Osofsky, In short, the socially competent child exhibits social skills e. Parents help children develop these social skills through parenting practices that include fostering and modeling positive relationships and providing enriching and stimulating experiences and opportunities for children to exercise these skills Landy and Osofsky, Parents also help their children acquire these skills by having them participate in routine activities e.

    These activities are shared with and initiated by parents, siblings, and other kin; unfold within the home; and are structured by cultural and linguistic practices, expectations, and behaviors Rogoff, ; Weisner, In this context, young children interact with their mothers, fathers, siblings, and grandparents who teach them implicitly or explicitly to acquire appropriate social behaviors, adapt to expected norms, and learn linguistic conventions and cognitive skills Sameroff and Fiese, Another important aspect of parent-supported social development pertains to parents aiding their children in acquiring executive function skills needed to adapt to changing needs of the environment and regulate their impulses and responses to distressing situations Blair and Raver, ; Malin et al.

    Evidence, primarily from correlational research, suggests that parents who help their children regulate the difficulty of tasks and who model mature performance during joint participation in activities are likely to have socially competent children Eisenberg et al. Parents also facilitate their children's development of friendships by engaging in positive social interaction with them and by creating opportunities for them to be social with peers McCollum and Ostrosky, In one correlational study, children whose parents initiated peer contacts had more playmates and more consistent play companions in their preschool peer networks Ladd et al.

    Research also shows that children who have increased opportunities for playing or interacting with children from diverse backgrounds are likely to develop less prejudice and more empathy toward others Bernstein et al. Findings from experimental studies on parent training provide evidence of the types of parental practices that are associated with child emotional and behavioral health i.

    In another randomized study, mothers who received parent training to improve their empathy toward their children became less permissive with their 2- to 3-year-olds, who became less aggressive Christopher et al. These relationships have been found to hold in experimental studies involving diverse samples. Brotman and colleagues found that a program designed to reduce parents' use of negative parenting and increase their provision of stimulation for child learning increased social competence with peers in young African American and Latino children who had a sibling who had been involved in the juvenile justice system.

    In a European study, Berkovits and colleagues studied ethnically diverse parents participating in an abbreviated parent skills training delivered in pediatric primary care aimed at encouraging children's prosocial behavior. The findings show significant increases in effective parenting strategies and in parents' beliefs about personal controls, as well as declines in child behavior problems. Improvements in child behavior as a consequence of parent training have been found not only for programs emphasizing better and more consistent discipline and contingency management, but also for those providing training that led to parents' greater emotional support for their children McCarty et al.

    In addition, Stormshak and colleagues found that punitive interactions between parents and children were associated with higher rates of child disruptive behavior problems, and that low levels of warm involvement were characteristic of parents of children who showed oppositional behaviors.

    Internalizing disorders in young children include depression withdrawal, persistent sadness and anxiety Tandon et al. Studies focusing exclusively on the causes of internalizing disorders in young children are relatively limited. However, the results of the available studies lead to similar conclusions about the relationships among training, changes in parenting practices, and child internalizing problems.

    First, there is evidence that parental behaviors matter for child emotional functioning. Specifically, parents' sense of personal control and behaviors such as autonomy granting are inversely related to child anxiety in cross-sectional research McLeod et al. Similarly, in another nonexperimental study, Duncombe and colleagues show that inconsistent discipline, parents' negative emotion, and mental health are related to child problems with emotion regulation. Second, there is evidence that parent training interventions can modify the parenting practices that matter. Third, some parent training interventions have positive effects on children's emotional functioning.

    In a review of randomized controlled studies of the effects of group-based parenting programs on behavioral and emotional adjustment, Barlow and colleagues found significant effects of the programs on parent-reported outcomes of children under age 4.

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    Herbert and colleagues conducted a randomized clinical trial of parent training and emotion socialization for hyperactive preschool children in which the target outcome was emotion regulation. Not only did the intervention group mothers report lower hyperactivity, inattention, and emotional lability in their children, but also changes in children's functioning were correlated with more positive and less negative parenting and with less verbosity, greater support, and use of emotion socialization practices on the part of mothers.

    With respect to social competence, a number of studies point to a relationship with parenting practices and suggest that parent training may have an impact on both parenting practices related to and children's development of social competence. An experimental evaluation of the Incredible Years Program discussed further in Chapter 5 , for instance, found that parent training contributed to improved parenting practices, defined as lower negative parenting and increased parental stimulation for learning Brotman et al.

    Gagnon and colleagues found that preschool children with a combination of reactive temperament and authoritarian parents demonstrated low social competence high levels of disruptive play and low levels of interactive play. In a community trial by Havighurst and colleagues , training focused on helping parents tune in to their own and their children's emotions resulted in significant improvement in the parents' emotion awareness and regulation, as well as the practice of emotion coping.

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    The intervention decreased emotionally dismissive beliefs and behaviors among parents, who also used emotion labels and discussed the causes and consequences of emotions with their children more often than was the case prior to the training. The program improved parental beliefs and relationships with their children, and these improvements were related to reductions in child behavior problems Havighurst et al.

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    6. As explained in the National Research Council report How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School , individuals learn by actively encountering events, objects, actions, and concepts in their environments. For an individual to become an expert in any particular knowledge or skill area, he or she must have substantial experience in that area which is usually guided Dweck and Leggett, ; National Research Council, Enriching and stimulating sets of experiences for children can help develop these skills.

      Evidence of the potential importance of parenting for language development is found across studies of parent talk. This research offers compelling correlational evidence that providing children with labels e. In addition to the frequency of talking with children, research is beginning to show that the quality of language used by parents when interacting with their children may matter for children's vocabulary development. Studies using various types of designs have shown that children whose fathers are more educated and use complex and diverse language when interacting with them develop stronger vocabulary skills relative to other children Malin et al.

      Similar findings are provided by experimental research on dialogic reading, in which adults engage children in discussion about the reading material rather than simply reading to them Mol et al. A meta-analytic review of 16 interventions by Mol and colleagues showed that, relative to reading as usual, dialogic reading interventions, especially use of expressive language, were more effective at increasing children's vocabulary.

      The effect was stronger for children ages and more modest for those ages and those at risk for language and literacy impairment Mol et al. Frequency of shared book reading by mothers and fathers is linked to young children's acquisition of skills and knowledge that affect their later success in reading, writing, and other areas Baker, ; Duursma et al.

      Studies demonstrate that through shared book reading, young children learn, among other skills, to recognize letters and words and develop understanding that print is a visual representation of spoken language, develop phonological awareness the ability to manipulate the sounds of spoken language , begin to understand syntax and grammar, and learn concepts and story structures Duursma et al. Shared literacy activities such as book reading also expose children to new words and words they may not encounter in spoken language, stimulating vocabulary development beyond what might be obtained through toy-play or other parent-child interactions Isbell et al.

      Regular book reading also may play a role in establishing routines for children and shaping wake and sleep patterns, as well as provide them with knowledge about relationships and coping that can be applied in the real world Duursma et al. Children of low socioeconomic status and minority children frequently have smaller vocabularies relative to children of higher socioeconomic status and white children, and these differences increase over time Markman and Brooks-Gunn, The middle- and upper-class primarily white speech culture is associated with more and more varied language and more conversation, which contributes to bigger vocabularies and improved school readiness among children in these homes Hart and Risley, Relative to their middle- and upper-class, mainly white, counterparts, low-income and immigrant parents are less likely to report that they read to their children on a regular basis and to have books and other learning materials in the home Markman and Brooks-Gunn, Besides culture, this difference may be due to such factors as access to books including those in parents' first language , parents' own reading and literacy skills, and erratic work schedules which could interfere with regular shared book reading before children go to bed, for example.

      As discussed in Chapter 4 , limited experimental research suggests that interventions designed to promote parents' provision of stimulating learning experiences support children's cognitive development, primarily on measures of language and literacy Chang et al. In one study, for example, interactions between high-risk parents and their children over developmentally stimulating, age-appropriate learning material e.

      Early numeracy and math skills also are building blocks for young children's academic achievement Claessens and Engel, To instill early math skills in young children, parents sometimes employ such strategies as playing with blocks, puzzles, and legos; assisting with measuring ingredients for recipes; solving riddles and number games; and playing with fake money Benigno and Ellis, ; Hensen, Such experiences may facilitate children's math-related competencies, but compared with the research on strategies to foster children's language development, the evidence base on how parenting practices promote math skills in young children is small.

      A growing literature identifies general aspects of home-based parental involvement in children's early learning—such as parents' expectations and goals for their children, parent-child communication, and support for learning—that appear to be associated with greater academic achievement, including in math Fan and Chen, ; Galindo and Sonnenschein, ; Ginsburg et al. More work is needed, however, to distill specific actions parents can take to promote math-related skills in their young children. At the same time, as noted earlier, some parents appear to be reluctant to engage their children in math learning—some because they lack knowledge about early math and may engage in few math-related activities in the home relative to activities related to language, and some because they view math skills as less important than other skills for their children Blevins-Knabe et al.

      Given the demonstrated importance of early math skills for future academic achievement and the persistent gap in math knowledge related to socioeconomic status Galindo and Sonnenschein, , additional research is needed to elucidate how parents can and do promote young children's math skills and how they can better be supported in providing their children with these skills.

      Finally, there is some evidence for differences across demographic groups in the United States with respect to parents' use of practices to promote children's cognitive development. Barbarin and Jean-Baptiste , for example, found that poor and African American parents employed dialogic practices less often than nonpoor and European American parents in a study that utilized in-home interviews and structured observations of parent-child interactions. Broadly defined, contingent responsiveness denotes an adult's behavior that occurs immediately after and in response to a child's behavior and is related to the child's focus of attention Roth, Such communication exchanges between parents and their children are considered foundational for building healthy relationships between parents and children, as well as between parents Cabrera et al.

      Within the multiple relationships and systems that surround parents and children, the quality of the relationship they share is vital for the well-being of both Bronfenbrenner and Morris, The science is clear on the importance of positive parent-child relationships for children. Emotionally responsive parenting, whereby parents respond in a timely and appropriate way to children's needs, is a major element of healthy relationships, and is correlated with positive developmental outcomes for children that include emotional security, social facility, symbolic competence, verbal ability, and intellectual achievement Ainsworth et al.

      The majority of children who are loved and cared for from birth and develop healthy and reciprocally nurturing relationships with their caregivers grow up to be happy and well adjusted Armstrong and Morris, ; Bakermans-Kranenburg et al. Conversely, children who grow up in neglectful or abusive relationships with parents who are overly intrusive and controlling are at high risk for a variety of adverse health and behavioral outcomes Barber, ; Egeland et al. The development of health-promoting relationships between parents and their children is rooted in evolutionary pressures that lead children to be born wired to interact with their social environment in ways that will ensure their survival and promote their eventual development Bowlby, Through reaching out, babbling, facial expressions, and gestures, very young children signal to caregivers when they are ready to engage with them.

      Caregivers may respond by producing similar vocalizations and gestures to signal back to infants that they have heard and understood Masataka, Cabrera and colleagues found that children of fathers who react to their behavior in a sensitive way by following their cues, responding, and engaging them are more linguistically and socially competent relative to children of fathers who do not react in these ways Cabrera et al.

      A consistent give and take with responsive caregivers provides the child with tailored experiences that are enriching and stimulating; forms an emotional connection between caregiver and child; builds on the child's interests and capacities; helps the child develop a sense of self; and stimulates the child's intellectual, social, physical, and emotional and behavioral growth Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, ; National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, This give and take is particularly important for language development.

      It is believed that through this process, the child learns that she or he is loved and will love others in return, and that she or he is accepted and cared for and will also eventually accept and care for others. For infants, social expectations and a sense of self-efficacy in initiating social interactions are influenced by their early interactions with their caregivers. McQuaid and colleagues found that mothers' contingent smiles i. The adult's response to the child's overtures for interaction needs to be contingent on the child's behaviors. Infants' spontaneous vocalizations are characterized by pauses that enable caregivers to respond vocally.

      Children who have experience with turn taking are able to vocalize back to the caregiver in a synchronized manner Masataka, Young children's social and emotional development is influenced by the degree to which primary caregivers engage them in this kind of growth-promoting interaction Cassidy, As described in Chapter 1 , securely attached infants develop basic trust in their caregivers and seek the caregiver's comfort and love when alarmed because they expect to receive protection and emotional support.

      In the face of the demands of daily life, with parents being unable to offer individualized responsiveness and synchronized, attuned interactions all of the time, sensitive caregiving makes it possible to manage and repair disruptions that inevitably occur in day-to-day parenting. Some research indicates that lower-income families are at higher risk for not engaging in these types of interactions with their children Paterson, , but there is variability within and across economic and cultural groups Cabrera et al.

      In a study of mothers of premature infants, for example, American Indian mothers relative to African American mothers looked and gestured more with their infants based on observer ratings Brooks et al. Such differences may be related to variation in sociocultural norms or to other factors. Parents who experience such stressors as low income, conflict with partners or other adults, depression, and household chaos face more challenges to engaging in emotionally responsive parenting because of the emotional toll these stressors can exact Conger and Donnellan, ; Markman and Brooks-Gunn, ; McLoyd, Building the capacities of all caregivers to form responsive and nurturing relationships with their children is crucial to promoting child well-being.

      As detailed in Chapters 4 and 5 , experimental studies largely confirm evidence from correlational studies showing that sensitive parenting and attachment security are related to children's social-emotional development Van Der Voort et al. We need your help to share the Goals. Site by Tin Soldier. Accessibility Text Size Increase text size Decrease text size. Can a celebrant or church minister refuse to marry a same sex couple? admin