How Personal Relationships Affect Child Development?

Personal relationships and social bonds with parents and peers can have significant effects on a child’s development 3. Depending on the quality of these relationships, the development can be either positive -- setting the child up for health interactions -- or negative, inhibiting the child’s cognitive and social potential. Given the importance of personal relationships on child development, parents can play an important role in their child’s growth by fostering healthy, positive interactions in all domains of the child’s life 1.

Parental Bonds

A child’s bond with his parent or caretaker is one of the most important factors affecting her development 1. Early parental bonds establish a child’s attachment patterns, which affect her interactions not only during childhood, but throughout her entire life. A child who grows up with little physical contact or sense that her parents are going to meet her physical and emotional needs may grow up to be anxious, apprehensive to interact with others or may display physical aggression.

Parental Behavior Modeling

A parent’s personal relationships with her spouse or friends can also affect a child’s development 3. If a child grows up witnessing his parents handle interpersonal conflicts through yelling, passive-aggressive comments or aggressive behaviors, she may model these interactions in her own life. Further, in situations where a child witnesses domestic violence, she may experience persistent negative effects, even if the child witnesses the violence when she is young. The Child Welfare Information Gateway explains that even early exposure to domestic violence can create permanent changes to the brain that affect children’s learning.

Social Relationships

Once a child begins to form his own social relationships, they can affect his development, particularly during the teenage years. The American Psychological Association explains that during adolescence, peers’ perceptions of young people can have a strong effect on their self-image and thus, their emotional development 2. Further, acceptance by peer groups can affect a child’s concept of how he fits in with society. This can shape his plans for the future and overall psychosocial development.

Relationships with Society and the Community

The community environment can also affect a child’s development 1. Specifically, Betty Rintoul, et al. of RTI International's Center for Research in Education explains that “the larger community also contributes to the child’s developmental outcomes through its availability of resources and the cultural milieu.” Access to educational and mental health services as well as community supports for parents can have strong effects on whether a family is able to meet their child’s basic needs 1.

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