Harvard University’s Preschool Project

This project dates back to the seventies and is unsurprisingly still relevant to this age. This was a ten year study of children between 8 to 18 months. The researchers were led by Dr. Burton White, intently studied the young children to find out how experiences in the early years contribute to the development of a healthy, intelligent, competent human beings. These are the conclusions, as originally reported in the American Psychological Association Monitor:

  • It is increasingly clear that the origins of human competence are to be found in a critical period of development between eight and eighteen months of age. The child’s experiences during these brief months do more to influence future intellectual competence than any time before or after.
  • The single most important environmental factor in the life of the child is the mother. According to Dr. White, “she is on the hook” and carries more influence on her child’s experiences that any other persons or circumstance.
  • The amount of live language directed to a child (not to be confused with television, radio, or overhead conversations) is vital to her development of fundamental linguistic, intellectual, and social skills. The researchers concluded, “Providing a rich social life for a twelve-to-fifteen-month-old child is the best thing you can do to guarantee a good mind.”
  • Those children who are given free access to living areas of their homes progress much faster than those whose movements are restricted.
  • The nuclear family is the most important educational delivery system. If we are going to produce capable, healthy children, it will be by strengthening family units and by improving the interactions that occur within them.
  • The best parents in the study were those who excelled at three key functions:

1. They were superb designers and organizers of their children’s environments.

2. They permitted their children to interrupt them for brief thirty second episodes, during which personal consultation, comfort, information and enthusiasm were exchanged.

3. They were “firm disciplinarians while simultaneously showing great affection for their children.”

The italicized portion is an excerpt from The New Strong-Willed Child by Dr. Dobson. I just needed to share this to the world even as it eloquently speaks of issues that matter most right from early childhood. This basically affirms our resolve in bringing up our child.

Harvard University’s Preschool Project
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