Children and young people often experience many things which have a direct impact on their development; things such as their family environment and structure, personality, hospital visits, childcare arrangements, and culture.
Of the environmental influences, the family has the most profound impact on child development. Family stability can be described in many ways. Traditionally it is defined in terms family structure (for example, single parenthood, extended families, working families, foster care etc) Exploring the various family processes that pertain to stability may be a useful means of understanding the specific characteristics of family stability that support healthy child development. For example, parental mental health, stable relationships among caregivers, and positive parenting are cited as markers of family stability. Characteristics of the home environment, such as warmth, emotional availability, stimulation, family cohesion, and day-to-day activities, have also been implicated in the notion of family stability. Children who experience family stability have caregivers who remain constant, consistent, and connected to them over time; caregivers who are mentally healthy and engage in appropriate parenting practices; a cohesive, supportive, and flexible family system; and a nurturing and stimulating home environment. Children are more likely to have trusting relationships with caregivers who are consistent and nurturing, which leads to a number of positive developmental outcomes. Positive and consistent care giving has the potential to compensate for factors that have a detrimental impact on children, such as poverty and its associated risk factors. In other words, children have much better outcomes if their family lives are stable, despite the overwhelming influence of poverty and associated risk factors. On the contrary, child mistreatment reflects an extreme form of family instability. Children who are mistreated often experience more than one type of mistreatment. These forms of mistreatment are associated with adverse outcomes in physical health, brain development, cognitive and language skills, and social-emotional functioning. For example, neglect is associated with a variety of developmental difficulties in childhood, including cognitive, language, and academic delays, poor peer relations, and internalising (anxiety, depression) and externalising (aggression, impulsivity) behavioural problems. Physical abuse, in addition to its physical health consequences, has been linked to cognitive delays, aggressive behaviour, peer difficulties, post traumatic stress disorder, and other externalising and internalizing behavioural problems. Documented consequences of sexual abuse include low academic performance, depression, dissociation, inappropriate sexual behaviour, and other high-risk behaviours in later childhood. Emotional mistreatment, which is implicated in all other forms of mistreatment, leads to declines in cognitive and academic functioning, as well as a variety of behavioural problems. The diagnosis of “failure to thrive” is a particularly illuminating health outcome of a problematic family environment. The experience of severe parental emotional unavailability leads to serious growth delays as well as psychological difficulties in young children.
Personality is what makes a person a unique person, and it is recognisable soon after birth. A child's personality has several components: temperament, environment, and character. Temperament is the set of genetically determined traits that determine the child's approach to the world and how the child learns about the world. A second component of personality comes from patterns related to a child's specific environment. There are two factors—temperament and environment—that influence the development of a person's personality the most. Temperament, with its dependence on genetic factors, is sometimes referred to as...
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