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Child and Youth Development

Healthy child and youth development begins long before birth and is one of the key determinants for health and well-being throughout life. A healthy child is one who thrives through each developmental stage and is positioned to reach his or her potential in adulthood. The capacity for a child to develop in a healthy manner depends greatly on the environment in which he or she is raised. There is an extensive body of research evidence confirming the profound influence of early experiences on brain development, school readiness, subsequent learning and future adult health. The child's early experiences have the most important influence of any other time frame in the life cycle. Additional information is available on the Public Health Authority of Canada (PHAC) Opens in new window website.

Among other things, the following facts are known about child and youth development:

  • Quality emotional, physical and social stimulation are essential.
  • Good prenatal nutrition contributes to a healthy birth weight and infant well-being.
  • Tobacco, alcohol and drug use during pregnancy can lead to poor birth outcomes.
  • A healthy birth weight is a key determinant of health; for example, a low birth weight can result in serious health and behavioural problems; a high birth weight may also be associated with maternal and child health problems.
  • Good early nutritional experiences through exclusive breastfeeding and appropriate and timely introduction of complementary foods contribute to lifelong health.
  • A loving and secure attachment to a nurturing adult influences a child's capacity for social, emotional and cognitive development, and ability to have positive relationships.
  • Parenting is a key factor in healthy child development; they have the primary responsibility for the care and nurturing of their children.

There are a number of provincial programs and initiatives that support healthy child development. These programs are designed to promote healthy pregnancy, infancy, and birth, improve parenting and family supports and strengthen early childhood development.

Please visit the Child, Youth and Families section on the Department of Health and Community Services website for related information.

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