The early years of life are important in influencing lifelong health and emotional development. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, many issues in early childhood development are directly tied to emotional, physical, and intellectual health in adulthood. It is important to realise that certain issues such as nutrition, economics, social environment, and a child's community during the first years of life will have a lifelong impact for a child.
According to the World Health Organization, early childhood development occurs between birth and eight years of age. Physical, emotional, and intellectual development are all components that are formed during this time and can have lifelong effects. Early childhood experiences may form educational, economic, and health factors that will last throughout adulthood. More than 200 million children under the age of five fail to meet their early childhood development potential every year.
Economic issues play a part in the development throughout childhood, but particularly during the first few years of life. Children born to mothers who live in poverty or are poorly educated typically have lower birth weight, and more health issues during infancy and childhood. Parental income can be a predictor of adulthood health. In addition, lower-income families may have fewer resources for emotional and physical health, of parents and children. This can affect or retard the overall development of a young child.
Social issues also have a profound impact on early childhood development. The social conditions of the parents or caretakers can have a direct effect on the language, social, and emotional development of the child, often with permanent results. This impact can be seen as early as 18 months, and according to the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study --Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), children in low-income homes most often lack the social skills needed to enter kindergarten. In addition, a secure and loving attachment to a parent or caretaker is essential for long-term emotional, physical, and intellectual growth and stimulation.
Healthy nutrition has a direct impact on the health, physical, and emotional development of a child in the first years of life. Nutritional deficiencies can result in the retardation of physical growth and poor overall health and may have long-term effects on the intellectual and physical development of a child into adulthood. Nutrition has also been directly linked to the income level of the home.
The environment in which a child lives has many direct effects on their development. Children in low-income communities are exposed to higher levels of toxins, pollution, poor water quality, higher noise levels, and lower overall safety. Lower-income communities also tend to have fewer resources for families, lower levels of access to health care, and fewer safe places for children to play. Children in poverty-level homes are also more likely to be exposed to lead-based paint, which can have permanent health effects.