Effects of Early Caregiving Not A Life Sentence


Our ability to play well with others and excel in school, from childhood into adulthood, is influenced by the caregiving we receive during our first three years.

Sensitive caregiving in our initial 36 months of life is a predictive factor for social competence and academic accomplishment, according to research through the Universities of Minnesota, Delaware, and Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Caregiving with sensitivity occurs when a child’s signals are quickly and appropriately responded to by a parent who maintains a positive rapport with the child, and provides a sense of security from which the child can explore their world.

“The study indicates that the quality of children’s early caregiving experiences has an enduring and ongoing role in promoting successful social and academic development into the years of maturity,” said lead researcher Lee Raby.

This is pleasant news for those who had sensitive caregivers, but what if yours were less responsive and not very positive?

But, My Caregivers Were Not Sensitive

If you did not receive consistent, sensitive care as an infant and toddler, studies like this one might be disheartening, or angering. Yet, a single study - no matter how well it is done - only shows one piece of a giant, complex puzzle.

Many factors influence our early development, including:

  • the influence of other family members: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings.
  • our family’s finances, diet, and living environment.
  • the Influence of adults and children outside our own family.
  • family and cultural traditions.
  • early exposure to TV, movies, computers, and other electronics.
  • early exposure to conversation and books.
  • the temperament we are born with—how we naturally respond to people and events.

It is also true that as adolescents and adults we can allow ourselves to be re-parented, and learn to be a sensitive self-caregiver. This usually requires the presence of a wise elder, mentor, adviser, or professional counselor in our life. It takes effort on our part, but is an achievable goal.

Re-parenting occurs when your signals are quickly and appropriately responded to by another person (e.g., mentor, therapist) who maintains a positive rapport with you, and provides a sense of security from which you can re-explore the world.

Though we may never lose the influence of our early caregiving, we may accept new influences, and new perceptions. By giving the new influences our time and attention, they can become stronger than the old ones.

Investing In Good Parenting

Studies that reinforce the importance of early caregiving make it obvious that funding parenting education is a good use of psychosocial resources.

“Because individuals’ success in relationships and academics represents the foundation for a healthy society, programs and initiatives that equip parents to interact with their children in a sensitive manner during the first few years of their children’s life can have long-term benefits for individuals, families, and society at large,” said Raby.

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: Sharat Ganapati / flickr creative commons


The information provided on the PsyWeb.com is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of PsyWeb.com nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.

PsyWeb Poll

Are you currently taking or have you ever been prescribed anti-depressants?
Total votes: 3978