Parents’ Understanding More About Early Childhood

By: Business Wire

Findings from a recent statewide survey show that money spent educating parents in California about the importance of early childhood development has been extremely effective.

"The majority of parents understand the importance of the early childhood years. Now we need to help policy makers understand this and ask them to shift funds to where they do the most good -- the early years," said Karen Bodenhorn, president and CEO of the California Center for Health Improvement (CCHI).

CCHI recently commissioned The Field Institute to survey parents in California, asking them the same question on early childhood development that was asked in 1997, for the purpose of seeing if statewide education efforts, largely as a result of Prop 10, had been successful. Both surveys were funded by a grant to The Field Institute from The California Wellness Foundation as part of the Health Improvement Initiative.

The results show a dramatic increase since 1997 in parents' understanding of the critical nature of a child's early years.


CCHI's Brain Development: Nearly Half of California Parents Unaware of Important First Three Years (July, 1998), summarized scientific studies in the last decade that indicate:

  • A child's ability to sit calmly in a classroom at age 7, cope with everyday frustrations at age 10, or participate in a team sport at age 13 may be affected by experiences in the first years of life.
  • Early caregiving not only affects future social skills and confidence but also the structure and functioning of the brain itself and, consequently, how a child will behave, learn, feel and perform.
  • Parenting makes the difference for the health and development of children. Awareness of the facts about early childhood development is of little value unless parents understand their own capacity to choose between alternatives and create the kind of early environment that their children need. Parents who believe that they can make a difference in their child's development and are supported in their efforts will be able to do so.
  • Parents widely report that they lack sufficient time for their families. Changes in the family structure - single parents, declining extended family, increase in blended families, and the need for two income families - disrupt ties to neighborhood networks, health providers and other sources of support.
  • While the placement of young children in childcare has become the norm in California, national evaluations of childcare suggest that only about one-third of care provided is good quality. Another third is adequate, but the final third may actually be developmentally harmful.
  • CCHI's 1997 survey revealed that:


    Many organizations worked together to build public support for Proposition 10 - the California Children and Families Act - in 1998.

    The goal of Prop 10 -- funded by a 50-cent tax increase on tobacco products -- is to promote, support and improve the early development of children from prenatal to age five. The funds generated by Prop 10:

    Statements from the President of CCHI

    "Policy makers need to understand what parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and law enforcement leaders already know -- that money spent on pre-school age children's programs is critical. Tax dollars re-directed at children zero to five for childcare, parental support and healthcare will provide more long term benefits to Californians than dollars spent on children at any other age -- school age children, young adults, and the juvenile court system." -- Karen Bodenhorn, president and CEO of CCHI

    "Although three out of four parents now understand the importance of a child's early years, one in four do not. That's a large number. There is a lot of work to be done and we need to finish the job." -- Karen Bodenhorn, president and CEO of CCHI

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