Consequences of stress on children’s development

Isolation

I have chosen this topic as I have a very close friend and I will call him Sizwe who experienced isolation , abandonment as well as poverty as a little boy from the age of nine until he was finally adopted by an older friend of mine when he was thirteen years of age. Sizwe is now twenty-seven years old.

Sizwe’s story is sad and unthinkable, just thinking about it makes my heart ache and I become teary-eyed. He is from my home country South Africa. His sad story began at the age of nine when one night he saw his mother packing her bags and he looked at his mother and said to her “Mom where are you going?” His mom replied ” I am just going out for the night to a friends house.” He had replied “Okay!” and that night he stayed at home with his grandmother. He woke up the next morning and his mother was not back yet and she never did return and to this day he does not know where his mother is. My friend Sizwe had a father but he never met his father and did not even know his father’s name. From that day onwards he only had his grandmother and she could not take care of him. A few months later after saving just a little bit of money he managed to pay for a bus to take him from his city to my city which is about a two hour drive.

Once he arrived in my city he had no place to stay and he lived on the street for a little while until he saw a scrap yard that was looking for someone to work for them. Sizwe was still only nine years of age, however they decided to employ him for weekends and after hours. Sizwe enrolled himself in a government school where the cost of schooling was very low. He went to school during the week and after school and weekends he would work in the scrap yard. Sizwe would use his earnings to pay for his school fees and to feed himself and a few months later he made a little home for himself in the scrapyard using the scrap metal that was there. Sizwe lived like this for a few years.

When he was about twelve years old, he befriended a friend of mine, I will call him Trevor and Sizwe would often go to Trevor’s house to play after school. Sizwe would often ask Trevor’s mother if he could quickly wash his school clothes and dry them at her home and in the morning he would come back to iron his school uniform and get dressed. Trevor’s mother said ‘sure’ and this carried on for a few months until she began to suspect that not all was okay in Sizwe’s life. She later found out that when Sizwe left her home at night after playing with her son, he would go and sleep under a church building because his home- the scrapyard was too far and dangerous to travel to at night. Trevor’s mother immediately took Sizwe in and cared for him for many months until an older friend of mine who already adopted two boys decided to have him as her own son. From then on, his life became better but the impact that the abandonment, isolation and poverty had on his biosocial and psychosocial development was and is still terrible.

Sizwe had no option but to cope and survive and so he did what he had to do in order to survive. The stress of isolation, abandonment and poverty in his formative years has made him:

  • Not trust women.
  • Not trust people in general.
  • Continue to still have a survivors mentality.
  • Depressed during stressful times, where he isolates himself from the world.
  • Closed and shares very little and conservative at times.

Now although he has so much emotional turmoil, he has grown up to be a gentleman, who expresses himself through music and dance. When he creates music and gets on the dance floor he is a different person. Sizwe would say God, music and dance has kept him alive and encouraged him to move forward.

Music

South Africa

Since my home country is South Africa and I have not lived or taught there for about three years, I thought it would be important for me to be up to date and read about the stressors that impact child development in my home country to see if things have improved, remained the same or become worse.

Upon reading and finding out what stressors can have an impact on child development in South Africa, I found that the biggest stressor is poverty (Gould & Ward, 2015). Here are some facts to show how poverty is the number one stressor in South Africa:

  • More than 50% of children in South Africa grow up in homes where caregivers or parents are without the support of the other parent. As a result this puts a financial burden on the one parent or caregiver to provide adequate nutrition, health care and education (Gould & Ward, 2015).
  • The parent or caregivers who are struggling with poverty are more likely to suffer from depression and depressed parents are likely to use harsh punishment and are inconsistent when responding to their children’s behavior (Gould & Ward, 2015).
  • Mothers who are the caregivers, are less likely to be affectionate towards their children and often resort to corporal punishment and leave their children unsupervised and left to fend for themselves most times (Gould & Ward, 2015).
  • Due to the lack of warmth, affection and supervision from single parents or parents who are poverty stricken the children become at risk to abuse drugs and alcohol and engage in risky sex and crime (Gould & Ward, 2015).

As one can see the children in South Africa are at risk if 50% are single parent homes and I know for a fact unemployment is rife in South Africa and this does not only affect single parent homes but all families.

In order to help prevent the above violence, maltreatment and negative affects on children’s psychosocial, biosocial and cognitive development, parenting programmes have been put in place to try and support these families who suffer from the consequences of being impoverished. These programmes have shown to be effective for improving parenting, reducing child maltreatment and improving children’s cognitive and behaviour development (Gould & Ward, 2015).

These programmes were developed by NDP, National Development Plan to reduce poverty and inequality in South Africa (Gould & Ward, 2015). Their goals are to:

  • Increase employment by increasing the quality of education in South Africa.
  • Increase per capita income.
  • Ensure all people live safely.

The parenting programmes goals (Gould & Ward, 2015) are to:

  • Help parents and children develop healthy relationships.
  • Help and teach parents how stimulate their children cognitively.
  • Help and teach parents to become involved in their child’s schooling.
  • Teach parents the importance of providing a safe home for their children to become successful.

Reference

Gould. C, Ward, C.L. (2015, April). Positive parenting in South Africa: Why supporting families is key to development and violence prevention. Institute for Security Studies. Retrieved from https://www.issafrica.org/uploads/PolBrief77.pdf

 

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Child Development and Public Health

Access to healthy water

Having access to healthy water should be seen as a blessing and not taken for granted as many countries around the world are challenged to provide this basic necessity. There are a few reasons as to why this topic is meaningful to me. The first is that coming from South Africa, many people who live in rural areas do not have access to clean, running water. The second reason is, having lived in South Korea and now China, you daren’t drink water out of the tap, as you are putting your life at risk. As a result the issue of having access to clean, healthy water is an issue in my own personal life, as I continuously need to spend my money on bottled water and it should not be this way, as all living things in this world have a right, a basic right to have access to clean water!

Our right to water

No access to clean, healthy water can:

  • Place people at risk for water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases and in severe cases, death.
  • It compromises people’s safety.
  • It makes education elusive and economic opportunity farther out of reach.

Furthermore here are some interesting and extremely sad facts about the world’s access to healthy water and their affects on women and children, sanitation and the world economy:

  • Out of 663 million people, only 1 in 10 people lack access to water.
  • Women and children spend 125 million hours each day collecting water.
  • In Africa and and Asia, women and children walk an average of 3.7miles a day just to collect water.
  • Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water -related disease.
  • Water-related diseases affect more than 1.5 billion people every year.
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene related disease kills nearly 1 million people each year.
  • Diarrhea is the 3rd leading cause of child death, which a majority of cases are water-related.
  • 160 million children suffer from stunting and chronic malnutrition as a result of poor quality water and sanitation.
  • $260 billion is lost globally each year due to lack of quality water and sanitation.
  • Time spent gathering water around the world translates to $24 billion in lost economic benefits each year.
  • In low and middle income countries, 1/3 of all healthcare facilities lack a clean, healthy water sources.

Isn’t all of the above shocking? I would like to know your thoughts.

 

As I have already mentioned, I currently live in China and so I thought it would be interesting to research the lack of clean, healthy water in China. As a result I came across the following article Public Health: A sustainable plan for China’s drinking water.

In brief the article is about China making drinking water safety a priority, as serious health and social problems in their population are caused by poor water quality. According to this article every year 190 million people in China become ill and 60 000 of those people die from diseases in the water from pollution such as liver and gastric cancers. The water is polluted in China as wells and aquifers are contaminated with fertilisers, pesticides, heavy metals such a arsenic and manganese from mining and the petrochemical industry, as well as domestic and industrial waste. As a result one can see China has a big problem at providing clean, healthy water.

What I have learnt from this article is to just keep things simple and instead of China spending billions on using chemicals and water processes to clean water, they can:

  • Clean rivers and lakes from industrial and agricultural pollutants.
  • Prevent pollutants from entering water in the first place.
  • Use cheaper technologies to purify water such as water purifiers on taps and use the lower quality water for bathing, showering, cleaning dishes and laundry use.

To sum up what I have learnt and how I can give back to the community is in a video that I watched called For women it is personal produced by the organisation called Water Org. This video explains that in most parts of the world where there is a lack of clean water and sanitation it is usually the women’s responsibility to find and collect water for their families and when they do find water it is very expensive to buy. What I liked about this video is that Water Org. has begun a program called WaterCredit. It is is a microfinance tool to work in water, sanitation and hygiene, where poor families can have access to small loans for household water connections and toilets. These loans take the burden off women spending all day walking to find water and instead allows them to spend the time to begin small businesses at home to send their children to school and pay off their small loans.

The results of this program have been phenomenal in various ways, namely:

  • It has increased the young girls’ attendance at school, increased their level of educational and literacy scores as they no longer spend time walking to find water and now can spend time on their education.
  • It has improved girls and women’s sanitation and health ,as they do not need to delay defecation and urination.
  • It has reduced baby and mother mortality rate, as they now have access to clean, sanitised water when giving birth.
  • Women and young girl’s psychological stress has decreased and been replaced with more dignity, as their personal hygiene has improved.
  • Women and young girls no longer experience physical injury carrying heavy loads of water.
  • Women and young girls safety has increased from rape and sexual assault as they no longer need to go and relieve themselves or collect water in dangerous places.
  • The world has realised that women have skills and knowledge outside of just taking care of their home and now have time start and have their own businesses.

Upon reading about this program, I have realised I too can help this initiative by telling people about it and later becoming involved in a program like this to help poorer communities wherever I travel and teach. I can also talk to my children at school about how we should not take water for granted, how we should not waste water, ways to make water clean e.g. boiling water and lastly ways to save water.

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Childbirth and around the world

This is the hardest post I have written yet, as I unfortunately do not have personal experience with childbirth. I am however excited to have children one day and to have that feeling that a little person is growing inside of me and I can only fathom that it is an unbelievable feeling and blessing and how ironic is it that one body becomes two. However although birth can be beautiful it can also be scary and painful.

When I was reading up about women giving birth and what they remembered about the event was that;

  • They felt their body was ‘open’ to the world.
  • They felt that their body’s boundaries stretched and widened.
  • They felt raw and exposed and that others around them expected them to open up more.
  • Some women felt it awe-inspiring and overwhelming as their body split and became two.
  • Some women remember that when they first looked at their newborn they said “Where did the baby come from?” as if it was foreign.
  • Some women just did not have a good experience, it was long, sore, tiring and they were bruised.

Contrary to what most people think birth is not always easy and beautiful and some women just do not have a good time and so I chose to look at the positive and negative feedback about the birthing experience. I do however hope that my birthing experience one day will be positive.

In my opinion from what I have read about children and how it plays a huge role in child development it can be dependent on how you decide to give birth and the level of stress the child goes through in birth and the mothers level of stress and if they are depressed or not. As children who were born by C-Section by age three have the chance of experiencing childhood obesity and can battle to breastfeed as mom has undergone major surgery compared to a child who has been born naturally and inherits good gut bacteria (Berger, 2015). I think babies that are born prem can have a rough and stressful start to their life with varied diseases such as colic, yellow-jaundice and their level of maturity may be lower than if they were born on their actual due date. In my opinion how a baby comes into the world can have a negative or positive affect on their later development in every area of their life.

In South Africa giving birth can either be a good or bad experience as it depends on whether you are on public or private healthcare. Most women in South Africa receive pre-natal care during their pregnancy and public healthcare facilities have nurses and midwives, however their is a high mortality rate in these public hospitals as the care for babies and their mothers  can be basic, especially in rural areas. However if a mother is on private healthcare they will receive first class care and facilities.

It is said that a lot of women opt for caesarean births as they know exactly the day when their child will be born instead of waiting for the unknown, it is also said that a lot of gynaecologists and paediatricians push mothers to have caesareans as the doctors can book their days as to when they want to play golf and by booking more caesarians the doctors earn more money according to an article by Child, (2014). I am not sure what to believe but I do know from listening to friends that the above is true both for the mother and doctors.

Lastly a lot of births also happen at home or in water and it depends on the African tribe you belong to as to how you should deliver your baby. For example in the Xhosa culture birth is a rite of passage and is therefore treated with respect, honour and celebration. The birthing mother is taken care of by grandmothers in a thatch like home and they have experience in birthing babies. After the birth the mother and new baby are isolated until the cord falls off. The grandmother aids this process by mixing ash, sugar and a poisonous plant called ‘Umtuma’ together and rubbing the paste onto the newly severed cord, which is believed to aid the drying out process. Once the cord has fallen off, the new baby is introduced to close female family members as well as to women of the wider community (Spiritual birth, 2011).

Berger, K.S. (2015). The beginnings. In Berger, K.S. Editor (7th ed.). The developing person through childhood (3-22). New York, NY: Macmillan

Child, K. (2014, September 22). Why South Africans choose Caesars when giving birth. Times Live. Retrieved from http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2014/09/22/why-south-africans-choose-caesars-when-giving-birth

Spiritual birth. (2011). Sacred Xhosa Birth Rituals: South Africa. Retrieved from http://www.spiritualbirth.net/sacred-xhosa-birth-rituals-south-africa

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