Young Children, Parents and Professionals: Enhancing the Links in Early Childhood

Young Children, Parents and Professionals: Enhancing the Links in Early Childhood

Young Children, Parents and Professionals: Enhancing the Links in Early Childhood

Young Children, Parents and Professionals: Enhancing the Links in Early Childhood

Synopsis

Margaret Henry proposes three dimensions of care giving behaviour through which parents and professionals not only help young children to develop, but can also help one another's development.

Excerpt

Like the citizens in Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities, young children in today's Western societies are living in the best of times and the worst of times.

THE BEST OF TIMES

For young children, these are the best of times because we know now more than has ever been known about how to help them become, and remain, predominantly happy, healthy, productive and caring of others. Views of children which ideologised them as repositories of original sin and which helped to perpetuate the long nightmare of childhood recorded from earlier times (de Mause, 1974) have been offset, in this century, by study after study of the actual behaviour of the young and of its causes. Bringing the scientific method to their investigations, researchers such as Gesell, Piaget, Isaacs, Erikson, Patterson, Ainsworth and Rutter have not merely philosophised about young children. They have observed them, and recorded how they function, and can function more joyously.

In addition, these are the best of times for young children because the resources potentially at their disposal are vastly enhanced. Take, for example, the resource of mothers. Mothers, so the tradition goes in Western societies, are there to be resources at home lavishing love on little children. Yet as Edgar (1981) points out, this 'tradition' is so short that, if we think of the life of humanity as a 24-hour day, 'the middle class traditional nuclear family, of Mum at home with two or three kids and Dad the breadwinner, barely precedes the midnight chimes' (p. 4). Before that, and for many families since, a variety of arrangements operated: young children were with parents at work, or with other members of the kinship group, or with paid servants (Aries, 1962; Shorter, 1976). It was the Industrial Revolution, bringing rising standards of living to the West, which permitted middle class (and increasingly working class) mothers to stay at home with the children. But since . . .

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