The Lancet reckons that 43% of under-fives in poor countries, in other words about 250m kids, will fail to meet their “developmental potential” because of avoidable deficiencies in early childhood development (ECD).
Their young brains are sensitive. In the first three or so years after birth, when up to 1,000 synapses are formed per second, they are vulnerable to trauma which triggers stress hormones. Though some stress is fine, too much is thought to hinder development. Neglect is also corrosive. Young children benefit from lots of back-and-forth dealings with adults. Research by the Rural Education Action Programme, based at Stanford University, suggests that rural children in China have “systematically low cognition”, partly as a result of being reared by grandparents who pay them little attention while parents work in cities.