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Key Factor in Child's Intellect: Parents

Posted October 15, 2000

— How much do you really know about your child's development? Arecent studyheaded by the Yale University Child Study Center shows there are big gaps between what parents do not know and should know.

As an example, parents are often surprised to learn that they are the single most important factor in their child's intellectual development.

Eighteen-month-old Sarah Langston is very curious about the world around her.

"New words every day. She'll point out something and name it, something I didn't know she knew what it was," says her mother, Jayne Langston. "Like a hairdryer, she walked up and said 'dry hair.'"

There are some guidelines when it comes to child development:

  • Between 3 and 6 months, babies learn how to hold and shake a rattle.
  • Between 6 and 9 months, they learn how to hold and even stack blocks.
  • Between 9 and 12 months a lot of children can put things in a box and take them out again.But there is no gold standard.

    Melissa DeRosier is a psychologist who specializes in child development.

    "There are ranges when you would expect certain things to happen, but really every child is variable," she said. "(They are) their own unique individual, and they're going to develop at their own pace."

    "She was a little bit late in crawling and walking," Langston says of her daughter. "She was crawling about 10 months, walking about 15 months."

    Recent research shows there is a lot parents do not know about child development. For example, you can not spoil a newborn.

    "When they cry, pick them up. Comfort them," DeRosier advises. "And it's not going to be spoiling. It's teaching them they can trust the world and you are a predictable, loving caregiver."

    The research also shows that many parents do not realize learning starts at birth and that the interaction with parents is a major factor in intellectual development.

    "I quit work when she was about 14 months, so I was able to see her first steps," says Jayne Langston. "I just notice something new every day. It means a lot to be able to see that and to have her spend more time at home."

    Many parents do not know when kids are ready to understand concepts like sharing, being quiet and discipline. Researchers say most real understanding begins at about age 3.

    "Like 'no,' understanding what 'no' means, or 'bad,'" DeRosier says. "It is a general concept that children don't understand what it means. Be specific. Tell behaviors. 'Stop spilling the juice,''Pick up your toys.'"

    When all is said and done, DeRosier says the most critical factor in child development is the bond between parent and child.

    "It truly is what the quality of that relationship is," she said.

    The study showed that mothers seem to know more than fathers do when it comes to the early child-rearing years.

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