Effects of early care
Babies are little scientists whose primary goal is to learn about the world they were born into. The ways they are cared for by parents and other trusted caregivers gives them vital information. For example, through repeated interactions, children learn how they can expect to be treated (in good times and in bad), how to treat others, and how to express and regulate emotions. There are many aspects of early care, such as sleeping, feeding, and childcare arrangements, physical contact, playful interactions, and the mother-infant relationship, that matter for later development. Early care effects can last a lifetime!
We know a lot – but not everything – about how best to care for young children. For example, how do things like subtle variations in stress in families affect the quality and consequences of early care? We are also still learning about the effects of certain types of care – such as skin-to-skin contact and different sleeping arrangements – on long-term child development.
We study the causes and consequences of early care behaviors. For example, our research has shown that certain types of care, like room sharing and breastfeeding, can have positive effects on the development of children’s emotion regulation. In addition, we study how early care affects biological development, such as the development of the brain, hormones, and stress regulation systems. Finally, we investigate whether experimentally changing care, e.g. increasing skin-to-skin contact between young infants and their mothers, positively affects child development.
Beijers, R., Cassidy, J., Lustermans, H. & de Weerth, C. (2019) Parent-Infant Room-sharing during the First Months of Life: Longitudinal Links with Behavior during Middle Childhood. Child Development, 90(4):1350-1367. doi: 10.1111/cdev.13146.
Hechler, C., Beijers, R., Riksen-Walraven, J.M., de Weerth, C. (2019) Prenatal Predictors of Postnatal Quality of Caregiving Behaviour in Mothers and Fathers. Parenting: Science and Practice, 19, 101-119.
Albers, E.M., Beijers, R., Riksen-Walraven, J.M., Sweep, F.C.G.J., de Weerth, C. (2016) Cortisol Levels of Infants in Center Care Across the First Year of Life: Links with Quality of Care and Infant Temperament. Stress, 19(1):8-17.