Negative Environments and Child Development
Children are on the whole impressionable, and therefore likely to replicate behaviors they see as normal or acceptable. This can perpetuate antisocial behaviors they are shown at early ages. When a child who has had a misguided childhood, socio-economically or emotionally, incorrect development can carry these behaviors into later life situations--proving without a doubt that nurture is extremely important when considering child development and antisocial behavior.
Development is extremely indicative of the direction the child receives. The "initiative versus guilt" stage in Erik Erickson's model is truly important--with regards to proper direction, children ages three to six develop the extent to which a child can, or cannot interact with his or her peers. A child neglected in this stage of development can grow no sense of self-esteem at all, harming chances at any interpersonal relationships as they continue to grow older.
If conflicting social compasses are employed--where what is expected in a neglected home is significantly less than society expects--than this can predispose a child to developing the same problems their parents' experience. The ages between one and six are the most important from a developmental standpoint, because these are the ages that most affects a child's development from a social and intellectual standpoint. Children exposed to negative environments at these ages can have long-term consequences, including an inability to interact with others, a stunting of creativity, abstraction, as well as symbolism.
Any misdirection in development by antisocial behaviors of the parents can lead to a stunting in development--a child can begin to make associations with both behavior and emotions that can seriously affect the next stages of development. The time between ages six and twelve directly impacts self-esteem, and therefore predisposition to antisocial behaviors witnessed. In previous stages of development it was shown how anxiety, depression, and substance abuse within a household can have direct negative consequences on development due to behaviors the child sees as acceptable--a direct result of false associations made in earlier stages.
When a child becomes increasingly developmentally complex, the possible problems that can occur as a result also increase. Development between six and twelve is really the first time a child has the capability, or should have the capability, to separate social situations. This can be particularly problematic in social situations where there is not a steady, consistent level of expectancy in earlier development phases. For instance, psychiatric issues and subsequent self-medication of the parents can often times give a child little direction.
An inability to separate a chaotic home life from the rigidity of something such as a classroom can be a very tough transition for the developmentally stunted child. The continuation of antisocial behaviors perpetrated in the home environment is very likely to carry over, as the child cannot make a proper transition to social settings. The family life, school life, as well as the overall community a child develops in clearly have the largest impact in development. Because children have family lives first, it is very often that this is the most important. That does not mean, however, we cannot do anything as educators.
As teachers, it is possible for us to see the signs of a negative home environment. While unfortunately there can be situations beyond our control, this is not always the case. Encourage these students in particular to participate in extra curricular activities--between clubs, study groups, and sports programs, help your student find something they are interested in.
We should exercise caution when disciplining students with negative home environments and choose instead to redirect their efforts for more productive outcomes--both in the classroom, as well as for the future of the child.
About AJ Romano
AJ Romano is a writer and poet, a mixed media artist, musician, and photographer from Central New Jersey--now living in Bayonne. He has published full length books, many blogs, as well as web content.