DAVID E. ARREDONDO M.D.

Compassionate Neuroscience

Archive for Love. Attachment

Activity is Key to Toddlers’ Mental Growth

Play trumps background factors in developing a child’s cognitive ability
CHILDREN WHO TAKE PART IN a wide variety of activities from an early age show more advanced brain development by three years old, according to a new report from the Scottish Centre for Social Research (SCSR).

Published as part of the Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) series, the study is the latest in an ongoing project commissioned by the Scottish government to track 8000 young Scots born between June 2002 and May 2005 from infancy into adolescence.

The sample of families was carefully selected to represent Scotland’s various urban, rural and economic backgrounds. The results are expected to inform future policymaking on issues such as welfare and education, in particular its Early Years Framework, an initiative launched last year to tackle health and social inequalities.

The GUS Report shows children who were often read to at 10 months and who did lots of activities like painting and singing at almost two years old scored better on language development and problem-solving skills by the time they were almost three.

The findings are particularly striking because they reveal that parents who involve toddlers in simple activities such as being read to, drawing or singing can have an positive impact, independent of socio-demographic factors.

Catherine Bromley, deputy director of the SCSR, admitted the results were “surprising”. She told the Sunday Herald: “There’s always a sense when you’re looking at this kind of data that you’re seeing quite big differences in experiences of children from more deprived backgrounds, compared to their more affluent counterparts.

“But, given the fact we know the activities are very deeply connected to the social background, we had to look at whether the activities were having an effect on cognitive ability simply because they were tied to their socioeconomic advantage, or whether they were having an independent effect. I probably wouldn’t have been that surprised if none of the activities had been that significant, and it had simply been socio-demographic factors driving it. But actually, we did find that, even when you control for the socio-demographic pattern, the activities in themselves did make a difference.”

The sample was restricted to children whose parents were not degree-educated and who came from lower-income households, comparing those whose parents had provided a lot of regular activities in their early years with those whose parents had not, and the same results emerged.

However, there was strong evidence that economic inequalities determined the extent to which children participated in educational, cultural, social and physical activities. Children from less advantaged homes were least likely to have been to events or on trips, and were more likely to be inactive. Those from the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland also recorded the lowest cognitive ability scores.

But Bromley was keen to emphasise that parents do not have to pay for expensive toys and hobbies, or engage in “very intellectual” pastimes to improve their child’s development. Trips to the library are as just as valuable as trips to the zoo, she said.

“The overarching finding is more to do with the range, variety and number of activities. You don’t have to be playing very intellectual games with your children, it’s just a case of singing or reading or drawing, as long as they’re doing it regularly. It’s about getting the message across that these kinds of things are important, but pushing the message that’s it’s not about punishing parents for not being able to afford trips to the zoo.”

Children’s Minister Adam Ingram added that bedtime stories or games in the park could make a huge difference to young children’s development.

“We know the uncertainty that the recession is bringing for families across Scotland, but this demonstrates that it’s time and attention that form the building blocks of development,” said Ingram. “Experiences in the early years can have a striking impact on future chances, and it can be startling how quickly disadvantaged children fall behind.

“By breaking these cycles of disadvantage we can help all of our young people play their part in a more successful Scotland.”  

 Helen McArdle

The Sunday Herald

10:22pm Saturday 14th March 2009

 

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Child, Adolescent, Adult and Family Psychiatry and Psychotherapy

Clinical Psychiatry

Based in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley areas, Dr. Arredondo provides clinical services, consultations and second opinions to those seeking expert clinical advice, medication or psychotherapy for complex issues that cross clinical disciplines. He was formerly the Medial Director and Director of Clinical Training of EMQ Children and Family Services – a large direct care provider organization (based in San Jose) which serves children with special needs. In this role, Dr. Arredondo supervised post-doctoral child psychiatry fellows from medical school, law students, psychologists, social workers and MFCC candidates. He thus brings a wide breath of perspective to issues of children’s emotional, academic and social development. He is the founding director of the Office of Child Development, an affiliate of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Dr. Arredondo also conducts research reviews on a broad range of topics and provides evaluations, consultations and training to families, professionals, and programs across the country. He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters and a frequent speaker at national conferences. Dr. Arredondo is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School.

CLINICAL CURRICULUM VITAE