How do children’s earliest and most formative years impact their future?

  1. Why is it so important to study the specific period of early childhood?
    יוסי שביטThere is a lot of evidence from international research that the environment a child is exposed to in his or her early years is of critical importance to the development of the brain, the central nervous system, and both cognitive and non-cognitive skills and personality. Negative influences during pregnancy and early childhood, such as stress, can disrupt children’s development. At the same time, children from low socioeconomic backgrounds may suffer from a lack of sensory stimuli and enriching experiences available to those whose families are better off. What is most concerning, however, is that these inequalities that emerge early on in life continue to expand later in children’s development and can have an impact on future life course outcomes. Therefore, we need to understand what is happening during this critical period of child development.
  2. How exactly do you define early childhood? What ages are we talking about?
    In general, the literature on early childhood development looks at birth through age 5. However, these years are not homogenous. It has been shown that during the first thousand days of life, from conception, physical and cognitive development is much faster than it is in the subsequent years of early childhood. Therefore, in our research, we distinguish between the effects of environmental factors during the period when the child is in utero, at ages birth to two years old, and at ages 3-5.
  3. What topics in early childhood development are you and your research team planning to study?
    My team and I are exploring the relationship between a number of factors during early childhood and future achievements. These factors include socioeconomic status and poverty, preschool education and its quality, family size, and parents’ labor force participation, among others. In the future, we also intend to study the effects of parenting styles. Research in other countries has shown that parenting style, such as the amount of attention, stimulation, demands and support that parents give to their children, affects child development in general and, more specifically, development in early childhood
  4. What are you hoping to achieve by pursuing this line of research?
    Through our research we are hoping to gain an understanding of the environmental factors at play in early childhood, as well as in utero, that impact subsequent life course outcomes like educational achievement. Understanding these factors can help lay the groundwork for advancing policy options to reduce inequalities in Israel by designing programs and interventions to address these environmental factors in utero and early childhood.

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