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Child Development and Learning

In general, most people correlate child development to how taller or wider a child grows. However, child development is a complex process that involves the growth of cognitive and physical structures. Therefore, even children with special needs still experience development from an early age until adulthood. Therefore, as a child grows, there are numerous ways they experience changes, such as sensory awareness, socialization, and motor skills for language acquisition. Children’s development requires that they are provided with environments that cater to their needs, ensuring that their social, health and educational needs are attained. The type of environment that a child is exposed to determines whether they will experience healthy development or not. From birth to the beginning of adulthood, family/family structure, financial status, culture, quality of education, community, and social inequities are the major factors that impact development and learning of a child.

Family or family structure is the primary environment that a child is exposed to immediately after birth, which means it plays a significant role in their development and learning. The parents, brothers, sisters, or grandparents tend to become the primary caregivers for a child, which means they play a significant role in meeting the child’s needs. According to Melhuish et al. (2014), “…children using either ‘long day care’ (day nurseries) or family daycare (childminders) in combination with grandparent care to have better early communication skills than children who used long daycare only” (p.48). A closely-knit family significantly influences healthy development and learning for a child, especially when complemented by other nurturing care such as grandparent’s care. The family structure will determine a child’s future success because it ensures security, control, and healthy habits. According to Härkönen (2007), “The Bronfenbrenner ecological systems theory (BEST) lays stress on the quality and context of the child´s surroundings” (p.2). Therefore, a child who grows in a stable family structure such that both parents are actively involved will tend to have a healthy development than those who grow up in an unstable family structure such as a single-parent household or abusive environment.

Family level of income and social status directly impacts how a child develops and learns, with children from disadvantaged backgrounds being negatively affected, especially in achieving their educational goals. Socioeconomic status determines the time a child is first exposed to learning materials, joins school earlier, and receives the quality of education. According to Lightfoot (2018), “low-SES children living in substandard housing are at greater risk for emotional and academic problems, get sick and injured more often, and miss more school compared with low-SES children living in better housing” (p.353). Therefore, socioeconomic status affects how a child learns and develops. Those from economically-advantaged families lay in safer and clean neighborhoods, attend the best schools, have adequate learning resources at their disposal, and have easy access to healthcare. A child needs to have physical, emotional, mental, and psychological well-being to excel in life. When they are denied these needs because of their family’s socioeconomic status, it places them at a greater disadvantage than students from middle- and high-income families. According to Melhuish et al. (2014), children from low-income families tend to find difficulties at school because they enroll with lesser knowledge and skills in academics than those from advantaged families. This leads to a struggle with cognitive development as they grow older (p.12). A child’s family socioeconomic status will determine whether they access health care and educational resources early enough or have to wait until they are old enough to join a regular school. The most appropriate step to make is to ensure that the socioeconomic status is raised, so getting medical care and quality education is not considered a luxury.

Language and culture will determine how a child develops and learns because miscommunication and retrogressive culture might hinder him or her from educational exposure and socialization. According to BEST, language and culture are macrosystems that are complex but influence a child’s values, traditions, and laws, which are often enforced by institutions such as schools, family, or the workplace (Härkönen, 2017, p.13). A child’s language and culture are often correlated with his background. The statement means that if his family or ethnicity sees a child’s well-being and education as a responsibility of the parents alone, it might be difficult to achieve healthy development. Therefore, culture is not explicit and hard to define, but it affects the core of any society, which constitutes child development and attitudes towards education. Lightfoot (2018) claims that “culture affects children’s development so profoundly precisely because it is rooted in the everyday activities of families and peers” (p.352). Therefore, child development and learning are significantly determined by their language and culture because they are the primary factors used in socialization.

There is also a close relationship between the type of school that a child attends and how their nurture and cultivate their values and educational needs. Schools have emerged as a place that determines which students are likely to succeed and those who are less or unlikely to complete their education. Lightfoot (2018) claims that quality education is vital in ensuring healthy child development and learning. In poor neighborhoods, children are often exposed to toxins that harm cognitive development and may suffer from psychiatric disorders due to exposure to violence (p.409). Therefore, the type of school that an individual attends constitutes what BEST refers to as part of the inter-microsystems that he claims have been historically one-sided (Härkönen, 2007, p.13). The statement proves that the location and type of school significantly impact whether a child’s development and learning is healthy and has quality.

Community directly influences whether a child is availed with the right environment that supports healthy development and learning culture. A society that values education and children’s safety and well-being will create laws that ensure they are met, meaning that a child will develop in an environment where their needs are prioritized. According to Lightfoot (2018), a study conducted between two communities in the United States proved that one community valued family ties and wealth is valued by one’s social and civic connections, while the other community valued family privacy, independence, and upward mobility as necessary in how they developed they children (p.352). Therefore, a community’s values, traditions, and perspectives about what constitutes a “good life” for their children will determine how they develop and learn. Communities that value careers will provide more learning resources to their children to improve their academic skills.

Social inequalities have always been a challenge, especially in the United States, where the minorities such as immigrants, African Americans, and children with a disability find it hard to experience healthy development and achieve their educational goals. Odgers (2015) asserts that “Children from low-income families are at heightened risk for several poor outcomes, including depression, antisocial behavior, poor physical health, and educational failure.” The statement proves that children who grow up in places that suffer from social inequalities will find it more challenging to have a healthy development due to physical violence and mental disorders, which negatively affect their development and learning outcomes. A country with less social inequalities will seek to provide all its children with quality education and a conducive environment that will ensure they excel both physically and cognitively. Minorities tend to be the primary victims of social inequalities, which means that child development and learning are directly affected by the financial and economic gap in a society or country.

Child development and learning are affected by the family they come from, their families’ socioeconomic status, culture, the learning institution they attend, the neighborhoods and community they reside in, and the existing social inequalities in their state or country. The Bronfenbrenner ecological systems theory depicts how child development is affected by the environment they grow in and the type of social interactions they make, which proves that a child familial ties, the type of neighborhoods they grow in, their parents’ socioeconomic status, and geographical location has a direct correlation on the quality of life and education they receive. Child development and learning are deep-rooted in social inequalities. Income inequalities have left many children from minorities communities such as African Americans to grow in an unhealthy environment because most of their environment is filled with violence and drug-related vices, which hinders them from accessing quality education.


Härkönen, U. (2007). The Bronfenbrenner ecological systems theory of human development. W: Scientific Articles of V International Conference Person. Color. Nature. Music.

Lightfoot, C. (2018). The Development of Children (8th Edition). Macmillan Higher Education.

Melhuish, E., Ereky-Stevens, K., Petrogiannis, K., Ariescu, A., Penderi, E., Rentzou, K., … & Leseman, P. (2015). A review of research on the effects of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) upon child development.

Odgers C. L. (2015). Income inequality and the developing child: Is it all relative?. The American psychologist70(8), 722–731.


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