5. How can environmental influences affect the development of infant?An infant or toddler has a time-limited period during which her experiences will affect her brain function and development. Nutrition, talking, singing, playing and protection from stress or the dangers of toxins and drugs are important requirements for healthy brain development in infants and toddlers. The environmental influences affecting development of an infant are listed below:
· Socio-economic status of the family: It has an indirect impact on development as it impacts most of the other factors discussed below. Ex: nutrition, exposure to toxins, etc.
· Child’s nutrition: Feeding of baby appropriately during the first year of life is extremely important, as more growth occurs during your baby's first year than any other time in her life. Starting good eating habits at this early stage will help set healthful eating patterns for life.
· Drugs, Toxins, Radiation and Disease: A number of substances such as drugs (heroin, alcohol, cocaine etc.), diseases and radiation can affect infant brain development. Exposure to alcohol while in the womb can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, which may result in delayed development in thinking, speech, movement or social skills, as well as physical defects. Viruses such as HIV and rubella and environmental toxins such as mercury or lead may also have a negative effect on brain development.
· Climate and season: Exposure to extreme climates can impact the physical health of the infant, which in turn can also impact cognitive development
· Adequate Sleep: Infants need between nine and 12 hours of sleep per night for optimal health. When they get this sleep depends, as nap times of infants vary, with most taking 30-minute to 2-hour naps one to four times a day.
· Family environment: Child’s ordinal position in the family, Number of siblings in the family, Family structure (single parent or extended family etc.) etc. can impact various factors discussed below:
- Stimulation and Interaction: Infants need lots of stimulation and interaction, which is essential for their cognitive and emotional development. Talking, singing, playing music, carrying on "conversations", reading stories with babies builds their vocabulary, demonstrates emotions, and teaches problem-solving skills.
- Secure Attachment: is at the heart of healthy child development and lays the foundation for relating intimately with others, including spouses and children. It affects parents' abilities to nurture and be responsive to their children.
- Abuse, Neglect and Stress: Negative experiences can also affect brain development. Abuse, neglect and chronic stress can cause synaptic development, but the child who results may be violent and overly aggressive. Exposure to violence during the formative years teaches children to expect danger rather than security. These children may have problems with self-control later in life.
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Environmental influences can significantly impact the development of an infant. It can impact the physical health of the child, and, directly or indirectly impact the mental development. Some of the factors include: Nutrition, exposure to drugs and disease and family environment.
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