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:

  • Cognition
  • Language
  • 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

Show 3 footnotes

  1.  Positive Parent-Child Relationships. (2013). (p. 3). Administration for Children and Families & National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement. Retrieved from
  2.  Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, “Serve and Return.” Retrieved from
  3. Impact of Toxic Stress on Individuals and Communities, op cit.

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of NC families with children age five and under live under 200% of the Federal Poverty Level

American Community Survey 5 year estimates (2009-2015)

of North Carolina children under age 18 live in families headed by grandparents

American Community Survey data from 2008-2012

of NC mothers are affected by prenatal and postpartum depression

North Carolina Institute of Medicine. Growing Up Well: Supporting Young Children’s Social-Emotional Development and Mental Health in North Carolina. Morrisville, NC: North Carolina Institute of Medicine; 2012


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

Research-based based policies, practices and programs that providers, communities and North Carolina can take to improve parent-child interactions.

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