Conservatists argue for at-home mothering but in some instances a child has improved life chances when they experience structured and quality child-care and early education.
Noble prize-winning economist, James Heckman of the University of Chicago says that the way a person's brain develops is heavily influenced by their interaction with their mother, father and any other care giver. The environment a new brain needs is one that is nourishing, nurturing and both intellectually and emotionally stimulating. Children often lack these if they come from families that are disadvantaged by poverty, the absence of a parent, the absence of wider family support or by the parents' lack of education or child-rearing skills.
Heckman did a follow-up study on a group of black children in Michigan who had been identified as having low intelligence and given special pre-school training that helped boost their IQ. The Perry intervention programme, which lifted the children's IQs initially, was later deemed a failure because the gain these children made seemed to be lost by the time they reached age 10. But 30 years later, compared to a control group, the Perry programme children had finished high school in the minimum amount of time, earned more money, owned their own homes, had never been on welfare and were less likely to have been arrested. Heckman says the difference was the "emotional intelligence" the children obtained during their special pre-school training when their brains were forming.
Emotional intelligence is how well people get along with others, how motivated they are and their ability to persevere and be tenacious. These are the attributes — combined with IQ — that helps people succeed. Heckman concludes that the emotional intelligence that disadvantaged children can gain from early childhood intervention results in their doing better in school, raises their productivity as workers, reduces welfare dependency and reduces crime. Heckman says the community benefits by eight-fold the cost of the early childhood intervention programme.
NB That's not to say I am advocating an increased role for state.
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