Decoding the mysteries of a child's developing brain

9/1/2017 - Distinguished Professor of Psychology Ross Thompson in the Washington Post.

It’s back-to-school season. Parents mark their youngsters' height on the wall and marvel at how much they’ve grown, but what’s going on just below the pencil line in that child’s brain?

We know brain development continues from infancy to adulthood, but many parents underestimate how much a child’s brain changes from year to year and how those changes can influence behavior.

Decades of scientific studies have shown even an immature brain is capable of extraordinary feats. Yet a fully developed brain is necessary for actions that adults take for granted, such as risk assessment and self-control. According to developmental psychologists, parents who better understand the stages along the way can help guide their child over the hurdles.

Yet many parents don’t realize how quickly infants begin to develop social and emotional awareness, said Ross Thompson, who is president of the child development organization Zero to Three and a cognitive psychologist at the University of California at Davis. “Parents underestimate how sensitive a child is to their own emotions,” he said. As early as 6 months of age, a child can be affected by a parent’s depression or anxiety and by marital squabbles.

Read the full story in the Washington Post.