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Social Issues that Impact Early Childhood Development

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  • 0:03 Development
  • 1:13 Divorce
  • 3:12 Parental Substance Abuse
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Young children are growing and changing every day as part of early childhood development. But what happens when issues get in the way of development? Watch this video for more information on how divorce and parental substance abuse can affect children.

Development

Aaron is four years old, and he's growing every day. He used to be a tiny little baby who couldn't even roll over on his own, but now he's an active toddler who runs around his house and loves to play at the park.

Aaron's friend, Daniel, is also growing and changing. He is learning new things every day, like how to count or what letter comes after 'H.' He can even recognize his own name when it's written down.

Both Aaron and Daniel are going through development, or growth and change. Everybody develops in many different ways. Aaron's physical development has let him move in more and more autonomous ways, while Daniel's cognitive (or intellectual) development means that he now knows things that he didn't know before.

The time between ages two and seven, commonly known as early childhood, is a time of great changes and tremendous developmental strides. But what happens when issues with a family unit get in the way of development? How do problems at home impact children? Let's look closer at two family issues that can impact early childhood development: divorce and parental substance abuse.

Divorce

Remember Daniel? He's learning new things every day, and he's a very smart and curious 4-year-old. He's also a happy kid, despite the fact that his parents fight a lot. But just last night, his parents told him that they are going to separate and get a divorce. Daniel isn't exactly sure what that means, but he's scared.

Divorce and separation of parents can have an effect on the socioemotional development of a child, though it usually doesn't affect physical or cognitive development. Preschoolers don't understand what separation and divorce are. They only know that one parent isn't as active in his or her life.

For example, Daniel's father is moving out of the house and will be living in a new apartment. While he'll see Daniel every few days, it's not like it used to be, when Daniel and his father would play every day. Daniel doesn't understand what's happening or why; he only knows that his dad isn't there as much as he used to be. As a result, Daniel will feel scared, sad and many other emotions that he doesn't know how to handle yet.

In addition to the confusion about divorce and what it is, kids in early childhood are in the process of learning how to build and maintain healthy relationships. They watch their parents closely for cues as to what relationships should look like, and if the parents are not careful, they can send a bad message.

However, the fact that kids like Daniel are figuring out what relationships are like can make divorce a teachable moment. Parents can demonstrate that, even when a relationship fizzles out, people can still be respectful of each other.

You've heard the phrase 'kids are resilient,' right? Well, this is true of Daniel and many kids his age. They are able to bounce back and be able to handle a lot of turmoil. Resilience in children is particularly high for socioemotional issues.

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