The importance of caregiver–child interactions for the survival and healthy development of young children

posted by / Wednesday, 21 January 2015 / Published in ARTICLES, Latest posts

By: World Health Organisation


Executive Summary

Young children are dependent on the care they receive from others. In this sense, there is no such thing as a baby on its own. There is always a baby in the care of someone. All the child’s physical and psychological needs must be met by one or more people who understand what infants, in general, need and what this baby, in particular, wants. The child’s growth, in all aspects of health and personhood, depends on the capacity of adults, in whose care the child rests, to understand, perceive and respond to the child’s bids for assistance and support. This paper reviews current theory and evidence on the importance of caregiver-child relationships for the survival and healthy development of children from birth to three years of age. It begins with the seminal contribution of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the area of caregiving. In 1951 WHO asked John Bowlby to review the impact of the separation of children from family and caregivers as a result of the Second World War in Europe.

Bowlby’s most important contribution lay in his emphasis on the importance of the close and caring interpersonal relationships that infants and young children have with their primary caregivers. Bowlby was convinced that an ongoing warm relationship between an adult and a young child the care that children receive has powerful effects on their survival, growth and development care refers to the behaviours and practices of caregivers (mothers, siblings, fathers and child care providers) to provide the food, health care, stimulation and emotional support necessary for children’s healthy survival, growth and development. Not only the practices themselves, but also the way they are performed – in terms of affection and responsiveness to the child – are critical to a child’s survival, growth and developmentwas as crucial to the child’s survival and healthy development as the provision of food, child care, stimulation and discipline. The lack of personalized care during the early years of life has a devastating effect on the child’s health, growth, personality adjustment and cognitive capacity.


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