Children and young people can be affected by many social, economic and environmental factors both in positive and negative ways. Because children are so vulnerable, they can be easily affected by things other people take for granted.
Development can be influenced by many factors but the most common are background, health and environment.
There are different things that can affect a child’s development in their background for example a family brake up, a parent’s new partner or bereavement.
A family brake up can be really stressful for a child and may even influence the child’s development. This may manifest in the child becoming very upset, withdrawn, the child could lash out at people, could go very quiet, could stop eating and could even stop talking as they may think that they had something to do with their parents separating.
If a parent gets a new partner it may influence the child’s development as the child may not like the new person in their parent’s life which could impact very negatively on their emotional well being especially if the child does not have anyone to talk to about this or is to young to express how they feel.
Having said that, the long-term affects of this are not, in most cases as severe as the long term affects of poverty for example.
A study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that:
Generally, the structure of the family in which a child had been brought up (such as living with a step-parent) was less important than the social context (such as living in poverty) in which childhood was passed. (1)
The study looked at different parental backgrounds and the long-term effects for some children in adult life. The study concluded that different parental backgrounds could influence poorer outcomes in adult life.
This could be dramatically changed by other factors as the child grew up such as education, jobs and their own partners.
Children who had been raised by both parents until the age of 16 (without early disadvantage or experience of 'care') had higher levels of life satisfaction, more family support, fewer psychological problems, and less conflict at every age.
Children or young people who have a learning disability are generally aware of what goes on around them, however, their ability to understand and communicate may be limited such as children and young people with autism, Asperger’s syndrome or dyspraxia.
They can find it hard to express themselves, may have speech problems that can make it even harder to make other people understand their feelings and needs. They can become frustrated and upset by their own limitations. When comparing themselves to other children, they can feel sad, angry and may become withdrawn.
Children with a permanent physical disability may find life even harder.
A study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (2) shows that chronically ill children tend to be more submissive and less socially outgoing than healthy children. Further, kids who live with pain and physical restrictions may be more likely to have problems relating to their peers. More than 100 chronically ill children and their parents participated in the study
The study explored the effect of disease on social development in children 8 to 12 years of age.
Environmental factors such as poor housing and homelessness could seriously affect a child or young person’s development and have damaging effects long in to adulthood.
According to Shelter, the housing and homeless charity, government figures show a sharp increase in the number of homeless families over the past year.
More than 1 million children in the UK live in bad housing
In 2012, 34,080 households with children were accepted as homeless, an increase of 12%