NIH Principles of Substance Abuse Prevention for Early Childhood

Lifespan development focuses on changes that occur within a person from the beginning of their conception until their death. Lifespan development incorporates not only the physical changes one acquires throughout time, but also the cognitive, emotional, and social changes. Humans have the capability of constant change, especially when exposed to different incidents or environments that can influence their choices, but as time goes on this change can become harder to achieve.

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At least four stages of lifespan development are observed, each of these stages can also be broken down into more specific age groups. The most important age groups many researchers tend to focus on lies within the childhood stage (3-11). Experiences at young ages tend to affect future outcomes more than experiences throughout adulthood. The NIH (National Institute on Drug Abuse) provides an example of this by highlighting the importance of early childhood, why and what early exposures to certain experiences can make a difference, and correlating both principles to substance abuse prevention.

The events that tend to occur through early childhood are known to shape “the life course trajectory”. The basic principle behind this is that whatever children are exposed to at a younger age shapes the path they will go on to live within adolescents and older age. It is easy to say this because at such small ages like those in early childhood, and sometimes even before birth, the mind is getting molded and children are constantly learning how to act towards certain experiences, and what is right or wrong. The two main factors that contribute to the developmental process are biological factors that kids tend to get from their parents genes and family history, as well as environmental factors that are presented to kids beyond just parents and family. At this stage of life a child exhibits vulnerability, as well as susceptibility to what is going on around them. This state of vulnerability tends to increase throughout the critical life transitions seen in childhood, and this is why researchers point to pregnancy, birth, or entering school as the best opportunities to introduce certain skills, knowledge, and competencies that help make development a possibility.

When listing potential exposures that children can get throughout their childhood there is a wide variety that solely depends on each individual child’s environment, parenting, and genetics. Although external factors do influence development it is still proven that family is one of the most influential aspects to development, that is why the way that parents take care of their child not only through childhood, but even throughout pregnancy also can have a major effect on their future experiences. To ensure optimal development within the early childhood stages caregivers must be sure they provide consistency, and they must nurture adequately otherwise adverse effects can be presented on their child’s behavior. This stage has to do with security and leads to healthy self-regulation as well as socialization. In order to successfully help accomplish self-regulation and socialization parents must pay attention to every critical step, starting with taking care of themselves at pregnancy and not drinking or smoking during this. Parents must be sure to be prepared enough to handle a child’s temperament, if they cannot do this it will have adverse effects on the child since they will not recognize how to do so either. Attachment is another big step parents need to ensure they master; children must know the balance and be self sustained, lack of this can often lead to insecurities or even aggression. Within the transition to school parents need to pay close attention to school engagement and if it is lacking fixing this is necessary for it is needed later in life. The ability to educate oneself helps to prevent abuse. Lastly the focus on managing external experiences such as stress, and parent’s own abuse and neglect is important seeing as though this is the example children are learning to execute. Without a good base to begin with the child may have a difficult time struggling through adolescence.

In correlation to substance abuse prevention this can be monitored through specific developmental patterns in childhood. If the proper nurturing and consistency does not take place through childhood this can cause problems correlated to drug abuse. Abuse goes beyond just administering a drug or taking it, it also has to do with behavioural aspects that an individual can possess, this is why development is important. Parents that tend to be to exhibit the right protective factors have positive effects on prevention of abuse. These protective factors are not necessarily the absence of risk factors that can lead to abuse, but minimizing the exposure to the risk factors correlated with abuse. Mindfulness of all crucial and necessary steps associated with childhood will tremendously aid the success of one’s future outcomes. Each individual is different and if a parent is well prepared, enough to handle and understand the importance of childhood then prevention can be likely to occur.

Although there are many stages that go along with lifespan development the beginning of this concept is the most crucial due to many external factors. It is easier to make an impact at a young age because this is when the a child develops the most and engages within their environment heavily. They need to get the idea behind coping with how they are and who they are to be successful later in life and tackle hardships that come their way. Within childhood they are vulnerable and if not successful they remain will remain vulnerable and susceptible to external factors, such as substance abuse.

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