Starting at birth, responsive back and forth interactions with parents and caregivers build babies’ brains and promote attachment and a sense of security.1 Babies cry, babble or laugh, parents respond with smiles, cuddles or words, and brain connections are built and strengthened.2 These critical connections are the foundation for children’s healthy development, including:
- Social-Emotional Health
These skills are essential for early literacy.
However, family stress can result in parent-child interactions that are less positive and/or less frequent, which impacts child development and long-term outcomes.3
- Positive Parent-Child Relationships. (2013). (p. 3). Administration for Children and Families & National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement. Retrieved from http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/family/docs/parent-child-relationships.pdf ↵
- Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, “Serve and Return.” Retrieved from https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/serve-and-return/ ↵
- Impact of Toxic Stress on Individuals and Communities, op cit. ↵
What Can We Do About It?
What supports positive parent-child interactions?
- Supporting families as children’s first and most important teachers
- Ensuring widespread screening and treatment for maternal depression
- Investing in programs and practices that have been shown to improve parent-child interactions
What Works for Third Grade Reading: Parent-Child Interactions
This brief considers why regular, loving, back and forth interactions between young children and their parents matter for third grade reading proficiency, outlines the connection with other factors that impact early literacy, and highlights options that have been shown to improve the frequency and quality of healthy parent-child interactions. It is one of 12 new working papers that offer research-based policy, practice and program options to states and communities working to improve third grade reading proficiency.
Research Basis for Pathways Measures of Success Framework
This resource provides data definitions of the Measures of Success and shares the research for each measure, demonstrating the connections between the measures and third-grade reading proficiency. A list of sources is included for each group of measures.
What Works for Third Grade Reading: An Overview of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading
The paper provides an introduction to a series of 12 working papers that offer research-based policy, practice and program options to states and communities working to improve third grade reading proficiency. Read this document first before delving into the papers.
The Science of Young Childhood
Related News Posts
More About Parent-Child Interactions
Living in poverty can affect the chemical make-up of our bodies in ways that undermine parents’ abilities to provide the safe, strong, nurturing relationships that young children need for healthy language, cognitive, and social-emotional development.1 Repeated stress—such as not knowing where the next meal is coming from—results in more easily triggered, more frequent, and longer-lasting bursts of stress hormones, which impact health, learning, decision-making abilities, and self-regulation.2 Successful parenting interventions address these chronic stressors, in addition to building parents’ skills and providing them with information about child development.
- Toxic Stress Derails Healthy Development (n.d.). Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/toxic-stress-derails-healthy-development/ ↵
- Stress management: Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037 ↵
Prenatal and post-partum depression are risks to healthy parent-child interactions. Maternal depression can endanger young children’s cognitive, social-emotional, and behavioral development. It can also impact their learning and physical and mental health over the long term.1 Although most research has been on maternal depression, fathers also experience depression. Estimates of paternal depression in the first several months after the birth of a child range from four to 25 percent of new fathers.2
- Depression and stress prior to birth can reduce expectant mothers’ participation in prenatal care. It can also transmit high levels of stress hormones to the unborn child through the placenta. These conditions can also cause babies to be born preterm and/or at low birthweight.
- Mothers’ and fathers’ stress and depression after a baby’s birth can reduce parent-child interactions, impacting children’s social-emotional and language development. Untreated maternal depression can increase the risk of child maltreatment as well as children’s own risk of depression, separation anxiety, and difficult behavior.3 Between 10 and 20 percent of pre- and post-partum women experience clinically diagnosable depression. Among low-income mothers, the rate is even higher at 60 percent.4
- Maternal Depression Can Undermine the Development of Young Children. (2009). Harvard Center on the Developing Child. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/maternal-depression-can-undermine-the-development-of-young-children/ ↵
- Sad Dads: Paternal Postpartum Depression. (2007). Psychiatry. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2922346/ ↵
- Acts of Omission: An Overview of Child Neglect, op cit. ↵
- Prevention: Chapter Four. (2012). North Carolina Institute of Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.nciom.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Chapter-41.pdf ↵
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
Grandparents who become primary caregivers experience a great deal of satisfaction from taking on this role, but many also experience:
- Health problems,
- Legal and financial problems,
- Conflicts in their marriages and work, and
- Social isolation and stigma.1
American Community Survey data from 2008-2012 found that seven percent of North Carolina children under age 18 (170,000) lived in families headed by grandparents. Of these, nearly half were five years of age or younger.2 About half of these grandparents were the sole caregivers for their grandchildren, and most had been caring for them for years.3 Between 2007 and 2015 there was a substantial increase in the numbers of children living with grandparents.4
- Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Trend Analysis, Family and Community Sciences. (n.d.). North Carolina State University, undated. Retrieved January 20, 2017 from https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/pdfs/GRG.pdf ↵
- How many grandparents and grandchildren live together. (2014). Carolina Demography: UNC Population Center. Retrieved from http://demography.cpc.unc.edu/2014/03/10/how-many-grandparents-and-grandchildren-live-together/ ↵
- How many grandparents and grandchildren live together? op cit. ↵
- Willis, D. (2016) Home Visiting, Presentation at the 6th Annual Home Visiting Summit. Available from the author. ↵