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Last update: Jan 2013

Progress

Within the first few years of life, children’s home environments play a critical role in determining their chances for survival and development.1 Optimal conditions at home include the provision of both a safe and well-organized physical environment; opportunities for children to play, explore and discover; and developmentally appropriate objects, toys and books.2 Several research studies indicate that children who grow up in households where books are available receive, on average, three more years of schooling than children from homes with no books. This finding holds regardless of a caregiver’s level of education, occupation or class and applies to rich and poor countries alike3.

 

Children in the richest households are more likely than children in the poorest households to have books in the home
Percentage of children under five living in households with three or more children’s books,  by household wealth quintile

        

Note: DRC: Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Source: UNICEF global databases, 2012. Based on MICS, 2005-2011.

 

Within the home, caregivers are tasked with establishing a safe, stimulating and nurturing environment and providing direction and guidance in daily life. Interactions with responsible, sensitive and responsive caregivers which match children’s emerging abilities are central to their social, emotional and cognitive development.4 This type of positive caregiving can help children feel valued and accepted, promote healthy reactions, provide a model for acceptable social relationships, and contribute to later academic and employment success.5

 

Learning activities that foster cognitive development and stimulate curiosity include reading, telling stories and naming, counting and drawing. Children’s socio-emotional development is facilitated by involvement of parents and other caregivers in activities such as playing and singing. Play has been emphasized as a particularly important aspect of children’s lives as it helps stimulate children’s minds and bodies, and provides an opportunity to practice social roles and learn about aspects of their cultures and environments.6

 

Children from the richest households are engaged more in early learning than children from the poorest households
Percentage of children 36-59 months old in the poorest 20% and richest 20% of households engaged by an adult household member in four or more activities to promote learning and school readiness in the past three days and the ratio of richest to poorest

                                          

How to interpret the ratios: How to interpret the ratios: A ratio greater than 1.00 suggests that children from the richest 20% of households are more likely to be engaged by an adult household member in activities to promote learning and school readiness than children from the poorest 20% of households.      

Note: Changes in the definitions of several ECD indicators were made between the third and fourth round of MICS (MICS3 and MICS4). In order to allow for comparability with MICS4, data from MICS3 for the adult support for learning indicator were recalculated according to MICS4 indicator definitions. Therefore, the recalculated data presented here will differ from estimates reported in MICS3 national reports.        

Source: UNICEF global databases, 2012. Based on MICS, 2005-2011.        

 

Proper caregiving helps protect children from physical and emotional danger. In the absence of quality, affordable organized childcare or adequate informal care, children are sometimes left home alone to take care of themselves and/or their siblings7. Leaving a child alone or in the care of another child can expose the child to increased risk of not only injury, but also abuse and neglect.

 

The poorest children are at greatest risk of being left alone or with inadequate care
Percentage of children under five left alone or in the care of another child under 10 years old in the past week, by household wealth quintile

          

Note: DRC: Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Source: UNICEF global databases, 2012. Based on MICS, 2005-2011.

 

While the familial and home environment is critical to children’s survival and development, access to quality care and education programmes outside the home can provide children with the basic cognitive and language skills they need to flourish in school and can foster social competency and emotional development. It has been recognized that early childhood care and education form the foundation of a quality basic education. Despite this, access and attendance to early childhood education programmes remains very low in many developing countries.

 

Children in the poorest households are less likely than children in the richest households to attend early childhood education programmes
Percentage of children 3-4 years old who attend some form of early childhood education programme, by household wealth quintile

          

Note: DRC: Democratic Republic of the Congo. *Data differ from the standard definition.
Source: Source: UNICEF global databases, 2012. Based on MICS, 2005-2011.

References

 

1. Belsky, Jay, et al., ‘Socioeconomic Risk, Parenting During the Preschool Years and Child Health Age 6 Years’, European Journal of Public Health, vol. 17, no. 5, 14 December 2006, pp. 511–512.

 

2. Dobrova-Krol, Natasha A., van IJzendoorn, Marinus H., Bakermans-Kranenburg, Marian J., and Femmie Juffer, ‘Effects of Perinatal HIV Infection and Early Institutional Rearing on Physical and Cognitive Development of Children in Ukraine’, Child Development, vol. 81, no. 1, January/February 2010, pp. 237–251.

 

3. Evans, Mariah D. R., et al., ‘Family Scholarly Culture and Educational Success: Books and schooling in 27 nations’, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, vol. 28, no. 2, June 2010, pp. 171–197.

 

4. Maggi, Stefania, et al., ‘Knowledge Network for Early Childhood Development: Analytic and strategic review paper. International perspectives on early childhood development’, Human Early Learning Partnership, University of British Columbia, for the World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, December 2005, pp. 7–8, 10–13.

 

5. Engle, Patrice L., et al., ‘Child development in developing countries 3: Strategies to avoid the loss of developmental potential in more than 200 million children in the developing world’, The Lancet, vol. 369, 2007, pp. 229-242.

 

6. Viola, Makame, A Rapid assessment of child rearing practices likely to affect child's emotional, psychosocial and psychomotor development: A case study of Kibaha District, Coast Region- Tanzania, UNICEF, December 2001.

 

7. Sigurdsen, Parama, Berger, Samantha, and Jody Heymann, ‘The Effects of Economic Crises on Families Caring for Children: Understanding and Reducing Long-term Consequences’, Development Policy Review, vol. 29, no. 5, 2011, pp. 547-564.

 

8. Irwin, Lori G., Arjumand, Siddiqi and Clyde Hertzman, ‘Early Childhood Development: A powerful equalizer – Final report for the World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health’, Human Early Learning Partnership, Vancouver, June 2007.