Children who experience more positive interactions in their early years go on to be healthier and more successful in school and in life. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. Exposure to family violence, trauma, and lack of access to quality early learning experiences can negatively impact a child’s early brain development, and subsequently, their long-term success, including their relationships with others.
There is an adage “give me a child until they are 7 and I will show you the man,” attributed to the old philosopher Aristotle. Although some adages are up for debate, it is still important to note that there is a reason why certain adages such as this would be passed down through generations. However, this particular adage has gained empirical and theoretical backing in recent studies. Now, it is a widely accepted fact that children who had a positive childhood grow into adults who are healthier and more successful in school and life. Regrettably, children’s exposure to family violence, trauma, and lack of access to quality early learning experiences have a detrimental impact on a child’s early brain development that would affect their long-term success, including their relationship with others.
"Give me a child until they are 7 and I will show you the man." - Aristotle
Child Development and Conflict
The initial years of childhood are periods of rapid brain development when most of the ‘wiring’ is laid down and that sets forth the foundation for the rest of their lives. This is because, in the first five years, human brains are more receptive. Therefore, early experiences and memories formed in early childhood directly affect brain development and function. In short, early childhood can directly affect children's behavior, social skills, emotional boundaries, and ability to form relationships that shall subsequently affect their school readiness, level of achievement, and even possibly, their adulthood.
In 2014, the World Bank, in a partnership with UNICEF, published an online article entitled “The First Seven Years Are Key to a Successful Life”. The World Bank and UNICEF had considered this adage true and had referred to several other studies. In the article, the World Bank reiterated the importance of the first seven years of a positive childhood “helps every child develop to their fullest and is critical for the advancement of an entire society.”
With the growing empirical evidence that represents the negative impacts of post-separation conflicts on children and with the guidance of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, there is a fundamental shift in Australian Family Law to a more child-inclusive approach that puts humanity back in the older models founded on neutrality.
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