Infant development involves considerable mental and physical changes, and it is important to nurture a healthy environment to ensure that these transitions take place smoothly. An infant’s environment highly influences its brain and biological development within the early years of existence. Failure to create such an environment can impede a baby’s proper development.
Low-income families may struggle to provide a healthy environment for their babies. According to the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, infants in poor families are more likely to be maltreated due to parental depression and alcohol and drug abuse. They are exposed to health risks including low vaccination rates and increased infections due to unsafe environments and poor nutrition. These adverse experiences hinder infant development and lead to behavioral and health problems in later life, including learning delays and obesity.
Lack of Proper Hygiene
Children in some households face environmental hazards such as rotting food, human or animal feces, insect infestation, and a lack of clean or running water. Lack of proper hygiene increases chances of infections and diseases for an infant, which may hinder his development and in some instances cause disability. Second-hand smoke can also be an issue. According to the U.S. Office of Health and Human Services, it can lead to allergies, asthma, and other lung problems for children.
An infant's proper development is enhanced when he is able to connect with the environment around him in a positive way. Extensive and positive interaction with others fills an infant’s world with possibility and facilitates learning. When the connections are limited, and parents or caregivers are less responsive to infants, the results can be negative. The Urban Child Institute points out that economic and family circumstances can lead to poor or low-income parents providing less cognitive stimulation than others. As a result, their children, even in the first three years of life, are more likely to have lower cognitive scores and increased behavioral problems.
A Struggle to Bond
Many women experience postpartum depression after childbirth, and if they go untreated, their interactions with their infants can be negative. According to the Urban Child Institute, 10 to 15 percent of new mothers suffer major postpartum depression, which could mean they spend less time touching and talking to their babies. This can lead to issues with cognitive development, behavior, and school readiness.
- Linda Palmer: Stress in Infancy
- National Center For Infants, Toddlers And Families, Zero To Three: Poverty Fact Sheet, Implication For Infants And Toddlers
- Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau: Chapter 2, Definition and Scope of Neglect
- Urban Child Institute: A Child’s Early Home Environment Has Long-Term Effects On Development
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