Childhood life is considered crucial for the health and development of an individual at later ages. The rapid development of the brain from before birth through childhood to adulthood makes childhood a critical stage for an individual. The first eight years of a child are crucial as they lay the foundation for their future health and development, learning and life success. The paper is a brief discussion of brain development in early childhood and how environmental factors may affect brain development at this stage.
The brain and the nervous systems start to develop shortly, two weeks after conception. By the end of the second trimester, the development of the brain neurons is almost complete. At three years of age after birth, 80 percent of the synaptic connections are fully developed (National Research Council & Institute of Medicine, 2015). Wiring of the brain at this age is now highly dependent on experience. The brain is considered plastic due to its ability to change with experience. Such a character makes environmental factors crucial in the development of the brain and the child in general.
Both biological and environmental factors influence the development of an individual’s brain. Early childhood is a critical period for an individual’s development. At this stage, brain development is highly dependent on environmental exposures, and it may cause permanent changes in the brain. Environmental factors such as nurturing experiences and nutrition have a significant impact on brain development in childhood. Research reveals that chronically and severely neglected children are at risk of developing a small cerebral cortex resulting in reduced brain size, and low IQ (National Research Council & Institute of Medicine, 2015). As well, adequate nutrition is required for optimal brain development. Studies show that malnourishment in children can also result in the development of a small cerebral cortex, reduced brain size and low IQ (National Research Council & Institute of Medicine, 2015). Early care is believed to influence people’s learning abilities and their emotion regulating capabilities at later ages, which are dependent on the degree of brain development.
In conclusion, brain development starts after conception and continues after birth. Both the biological and environmental factors influence the development of the brain. At early childhood stages, environmental factors, including exposure and nutrition, are critical in brain development. They influence the development of the cerebral cortex, which affects the brain size and IQ of the child. Unfavorable environmental factors may result in the development of a small cerebral cortex resulting in reduced brain size and low IQ.
National Research Council, & Institute of Medicine. (2015). Transforming the workforce for children birth through age 8: A unifying foundation. National Academies Press.