Can we listen and learn from our children? Yes, we must! Just listen to the wisdom of Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, age 15 years, who has sparked a worldwide children’s campaign to protect our climate. Last year she became so depressed witnessing the lethargy of adults’ inaction to protect our climate that she left school and spent 3 weeks protesting outside of the Swedish Parliament to spur politicians’ action. Soon after she began taking Fridays off from school to continue her protest. Greta has spotlighted what she deems the greatest worldwide crisis facing us today. A crisis which severely impacts children’s future.Read More
KIPS Blog: Parenting Assessment in Practice & Research
If you follow the KIPS Blogs, you know that we are big fans of James Heckman (1, 2), from the University of Chicago Center for the Economics of Human Development, who is a tireless advocate for investing in early intervention to gain greater returns for children, families, and communities.
In a previous blog, we took a look at his small book entitled Giving Kids a Fair Chance (A Strategy that Works). As a Nobel Prize winning economist, Heckman’s writing is often highly technical. However, he wrote this powerful little book in plain language to get his message out to the public. In Giving Kids a Fair Chance, Heckman makes 3 powerful points. For his website, he has distilled these 3 points into what is known as the Heckman Equation: invest + develop + sustain = gain. Heckman estimated a sevenfold return on quality investments in the preschool years for three and four-year-olds. There is no other known public investment that can make this claim.
Or is there?
Parents with current and past adversity may end up parenting in a way that poses a threat to the baby; this refers to all forms of maltreatment, and in turn the baby's entire neuro-hormonal system will adapt to its emotional environment creating structures and responses that become the foundation for future development. Thus, “From a basic biological perspective, the child’s neuronal system – the structure and functioning of the developing brain – is shaped by the parent’s more mature brain” (Siegal, 1999:278). Through early detection and intervention we can repair relationships and support parents in nurturing their children to promote healthy neurobiological development.
Since we are in between Halloween, when we give our children copious amounts of candy, and Thanksgiving, the national massive feast day in the U.S., childhood obesity comes to mind. This might be an ideal time to review a fascinating study revealing a link between parenting quality and obesity. First, some background on childhood obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence of obesity has doubled for children, and tripled for adolescents in the last 30 years. Currently, about a third of children are overweight or obese. Obese children have a strong tendency to become obese adults. Obesity has health, economic, and psychosocial consequences. Treating obesity is difficult, with low success rates, so prevention is our best route. Certainly, there is a strong genetic component in obesity. However, the rapid increase in the prevalence of obesity cannot be explained by genetic changes in our population.
Good things certainly do come in small packages! In particular, I am referring to a short 137- page book entitled Giving Kids a Fair Chance (A Strategy that Works) by James Heckman from the University of Chicago. As a Nobel Prize winning economist, James Heckman’s writing is often highly technical. However, he wrote this powerful little book for the public. This book should be required reading for all working in our field, and for legislators and policy makers.
In a recent New York Times article, David Dobbs, reviewed research by Alison Gopnik and others regarding the power of play in child development. Dobbs says about play,
A recent article by Dr. Jack Shonkoff in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, entitled Leveraging the Biology of Adversity to Address the Roots of Disparities in Health and Development stresses the importance of parenting and the use of assessments in combating chronic medical and developm ental challenges for children at risk.