Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why a Blog About Child Development?

A few months ago, I was struck by a report in the news about a research study that considered parents’ expectations of infants’ behavior and development. According to this study conducted by Heather Paradis, M.D., and colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical Center, about one-third of parents had low knowledge of infant development. That is, 30% of parents in this study had unrealistic expectations for what their infant should be able to do (or not do) at a given age. The study authors used questions like “Should a one-year old be able to tell the difference between right and wrong?” to assess parents’ knowledge of developmentally appropriate behavior of infants. Perhaps the most interesting part of the study was that it showed that parents’ knowledge of infant development was correlated with their parenting skills. The study found that parents with low-level knowledge of infant development were less likely to engage in healthy parent-child interactions and less likely to participate in activities such as reading, telling stories, or singing, that help infants develop social and intellectual skills. Although the study didn’t address this, you can imagine how different the parenting strategies of two parents would be if, for instance, one thinks a one-year old can tell the difference between right and wrong and the other does not. Clearly, having at least a basic understanding developmental milestones and expectations of infants’ behavior can have a dramatic influence on how an individual parents.

While interesting, this story was also disturbing to me. As someone with a background in child development and family studies, I’m surrounded by journals and books describing different aspects of parenting and development all day long. With all the information that is out there, why is it that many parents are not well-informed about child development? The answer to this question is complex, but I think one obvious point is that the research and information really isn’t out there where parents can access it. It’s packed away in jargon-laden, difficult to read academic journals that rarely see the light of day from their library shelves. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for academic research. Academic research is crucial for expanding the body of knowledge of any given area of study. However, academic research is just that, academic. There are not very good channels for passing this very useful information along to parents in an easy to understand format. Yes, there are many parenting books available on the market and while I’m sure some are very good, many are not based on much real research, but rather on the author’s first-hand experience or opinion.

After pondering this situation, I realized that perhaps technology could help overcome this disconnect between research and everyday life. Like many people, I have slowly begun to rely more and more on the internet as a source of information. When I have a question or issue I want to learn about, I often turn to the internet as my first resource. I assume many parents do this too, so why not create a blog to help provide parents with research-based information about child development. I hope this blog will help close the gap (if even just a little) between those research journals at the library and the average parent looking for information.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080504095631.htm
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