Early Experiences Matter
Early Connection is Key
Infancy is a critical developmental period involving the establishment of the neurophysiological and psychological foundations of our emotional and physical health and academic and social success. Caregiver-child interactions in the first years of life are integral to this development.
Infant Brain Development
The infant brain develops within interpersonal contexts, where brain structure and function are shaped by early caregiver-infant interactions. When caregivers are attuned, positive, and responsive, the baby’s brain gets the kind of stimulation it needs to form neural circuits that result in the development of these critical capacities:
- trusting others
- managing emotions
- communicating needs and wants
- exploring and learning
Researchers call this the ‘experience-dependent’ nature of early brain development.
When infants experience caregiving that is persistently misattuned, unavailable, or that exposes them to danger (abuse and neglect), their brains learn to focus too much attention and energy on finding ways to feel safe. This makes it harder for them to trust others, manage emotions, and engage in learning. The effects can be life-long and even affect their health and well-being as adults.
Attuned, positive, and safe early relationships
healthy brain development
positive social-emotional development
positive cognitive development
positive health outcomes
Becoming a parent is challenging under the best of circumstances. We know that when parents feel deeply overloaded– by factors like trauma, racism, poverty, anxiety, and depression — children feel the impacts. But when caregivers are supported in ways that allow them to stay attuned and responsive while delighting in their children in spite of challenges, they act as a buffer, protecting the child’s developing brain from the effects of too much stress.
Having attuned and responsive early experiences, within positive and loving caregiving relationships, sets the foundation for social-emotional development, cognitive development, and good health.
By encouraging and supporting parents and caregivers to provide the nurturing experiences that infants and toddlers need–by focusing on foundational relationships–we can give all children the best start in life and mitigate the impacts of early adversity.