As our understanding of development science improves it becomes clearer how events that happen to babies and children lead to structural changes in their brains that have life-long ramifications.
By the time a child is three years old, 90% of his or her brain is developed. This development takes place within the context of relationships with primary caregivers.
As a result, studies are now suggesting that the impact of early experience has a greater influence on development than heredity. So, the strength and quality of relationships between infants and their caregivers are fundamental to the effective development of children’s brain architecture, functions and capacity.
Being born into deprived circumstances has negative effects on child development outcomes. Studies in the field of infant mental health in South Africa identified high rates of insecure attachment amongst infants. Insecure attachment is associated with significantly higher risk for the development of psychopathology and criminality in adolescence and adulthood.
Therefore, treating insecure attachment is imperative in our country because violent crime is common. Treating attachment difficulties early can also help to stem unemployment. In South Africa about R5.1-billion is spent on social welfare grants per year. Many of these payments go to individuals who are emotionally ill and who, as a result, cannot work.
The absence of a secure bond between parents and their baby in the first three years of life often is the root cause of social ills like relationship breakdown, substance abuse (including alcohol abuse) and mental illness. Treating relationships in trouble is a better, more cost effective approach than treating these afflictions later in life. Problems addressed early have better outcomes than the treatment of difficulties that are entrenched.