Health, Not Wealth, More Important for Child Development Says Study

Raising a child is an overwhelming endeavor. It can feel like you never have enough: time, energy, resources, money. It’s incredibly expensive to have a baby in this day and age, and the guilt a lot of parents feel about what they can and can’t provide (myself included) can be hard to deal with. But a new child development study suggests that wealth may not as important a part of raising a child as we think. Healthy children, regardless of socioeconomic backgrounds, reach their milestones in remarkably similar ways. Health, not wealth, matters the most when it comes to child development.

The child development study published in The Lancet looked at developmental milestones in a large number of  healthy children ages 0 – 3. The children were from four diverse countries: India, South Africa, Argentina, and Turkey.

What researchers found was that the children, of varying ages and from vastly different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, all reached early developmental milestones at about the same rate. The common factor was that they were all in good health. Previous research in this area did not put enough emphasis on children’s health and how that impacted their development. Thus, the data showed that child development differed across sex and culture.

But this latest study used a universally standardized tool to monitor child development. There exists a lack of culturally appropriate, affordable, and easy tools for health workers to use.

The tool used in this study, the guide for monitoring childhood development, used seven indicators:  expressive language, receptive language, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, relating, play and self-help. Using these criteria, researchers were able to determine that children in low and middle income countries can be expected to meet development milestones at the same rate as children in higher income countries, as long as their basic needs for health, safety, and stimulation are met.

We’ve all felt like we’re letting our kids down or failing at one point or another. But remember: just because you can’t afford that pricey preschool or summer camp, as long as you’re meeting your child’s basic needs, they’re going to be just fine.

(Image: iStock / monkeybusinessimages)

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