The Path to Better Childhoods


By Dana Suskind /Lydia Denworth D. サスキンド /L.デンワース
English 日本語 日本語
On vital measures that predict later success in school and life, small children in the U.S. do worse than kids in comparable countries. This distressing information comes from an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study of five-year-olds. For years the OECD has been examining the academic achievement of 15-year-old students from around the world, and recently it extended this work to the younger group. On average, American children had lower literacy and numeracy scores, poorer self-regulation skills, and engaged in fewer acts of cooperation, kindness and other prosocial behaviors than did children in England and Estonia, the other countries studied. Just about the only bright spot was that U.S. children were roughly equivalent to their international peers on some—but not all—social-emotional measures.  米国の幼児は,その後の学校生活や人生の成功につながるいくつかの重要スキルが他国の幼児と比べて低いという。この悩ましい情報は,経済協力開発機構(OECD)による5歳児の調査で得られたものだ。長年OECDは世界各国の15歳時点の学習到達度調査を行っており,最近調査を低年齢層に拡大した。米国の幼児は平均して,読み書きや計算能力,自分の思考や行動を適切にコントロールする自己調整能力がこの調査で調べた英国とエストニアの幼児に比べて低く,協調的活動や思いやり行動,人助けのような向社会的行動も少なかった。良かったのは,感情のコントロールなどに代表される社会情動的スキルの一部が他国とほぼ同等だったことくらいだ。
These findings did not get the attention they deserved, because they were announced in March 2020, a few days after the World Health Organization declared that COVID had become a pandemic. But they did not come as a surprise—other recent research has shown that about half of American children are not “on track” in at least one critical area of school readiness. Because the OECD report looked at kids who were just starting school, it was a powerful reminder that we have lost sight of something basic: Learning begins on the first day of life—and not the first day of class. The earliest years of a child’s life are full of opportunity. A child’s brain will never be more receptive to experience, more plastic, than it is during this pivotal time. Nearly 85 percent of brain growth occurs between birth and the age of three. During this period one million neural connections per second are formed.  調査結果は2020年3月,世界保健機関(WHO)がCOVID-19のパンデミック宣言を出した数日後に発表されたため,あまり注目を集めなかった。しかしこの結果は驚くにはあたらない。最近の別の調査でも,米国の幼児の約半数は就学準備が整わず,本来身につけておくべき重要な能力の発達に遅れが見られた。OECDの調査が就学前の幼児を対象にしている点は,われわれが見失っていた基本的なことを強く思い出させる。それは,子どもの学習が就学1日目でなく,生後1日目から始まるということだ。
Two decades of child development research tell us that small kids need two things above all else to get off to the best possible start: nurturing interaction with caregivers and protection from toxic stress. Over the past five years a new wave of neuroscientific studies, highlighting the neurobiological effects of early experience, has strongly pointed toward ways of accomplishing these goals. Such research provides an early peek at what is happening in young children’s brains. The studies show that environments and relationships we know benefit development are also associated with higher levels of activation and connectivity in parts of the brain that underpin language and cognitive development.  20年に及ぶ子どもの発達研究から,幼児が最高の成長のスタートを切るには「養育者との親密な関わり」と「有害なストレスからの保護」の2つが何よりも大切であることがわかった。さらに,早期の幼児体験が脳に及ぼす神経生理学的な影響を探った最近5年間の新たな研究が,この2 つの目標を達成する方法をはっきりと示している。こうした研究から,幼児の脳内で何が起きているかを垣間見ることができる。幼児の成長に良いことが知られてきた育児環境や養育者との交流が,実際に脳内でも言語や認知の発達を担う領域の神経活動や接続を高めることが明らかになっている。