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Socioeconomic Influences On Learning And Development

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 3444 words Published: 28th Sep 2017

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The factors that can affect learning and development

Children’s development can be affected positively and negatively by a variety of different factors. These factors can take place externally and have a significant effect on a child’s life chances. Early years workers should have an understanding of the factors affecting learning and development of the children in their care.

Factors that can affect learning and development are deveined into social environmental, economic and physical factors.

Social Factors

Social factors are those which involve communication with others. Children are very sociable and mix with others in a range of situations.

  • Family

The family unit is a small reflection of the wider society. Within a family unit, primary socialisation occurs in which, acceptable norms and values are introduced to children. The norms and values that young children learn from their family will initially believe that the way these are transmitted to them, are the same in all families. This supports the idea of ethnocentrism, in which in this case, the child’s culture is ‘normal’ while others are inferior. The experience within a child’s home has a direct impact on their life chances.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), early childhood is the utmost thorough time of a child’s brain development. In the first three years, a child’s brain is highly sensitive to external factors (social, environmental, economic and physical factors etc.), for example, a family that doesn’t deliver a stimulating environment for children by not communicating regularly to enhance language development and does not develop a healthy bond with their child. This can result in the child being behind their developmental milestones. WHO informs families that a child who experiences a stressful environment is more likely to experience learning disabilities and have an increased risk of developing a stress-related illness such as; depression.

Family structures include;

  • Extended families
  • Foster families
  • One-parent families
  • Step-families
  • Shared-care families
  • Nuclear families

A child’s family has the responsibility to provide for a child’s needs. These include;

  • Food and drink
  • A home or shelter
  • Warmth and clothing
  • Love and companionship
  • Protection and support
  • Care and training
  • A safe, secure environment in which they can develop
  • encouragement

Children depend on their family to provide them with the care and provision required to progress. The bond established between a baby and their parents or primary carer has a direct influence on development. Children who have a protected connection commonly develop into joyful, well balanced individuals. Those who have bad bond may experience difficulties with their growth. Children, who live in a pleasant, comforting family, in which the parents give inspiration, will benefit in their learning and development.

In modern society the structure of the family can vary. This can again have an impact on a child’s learning and development. A child who lives in a one-parent family may not receive the same level of attention, as a child who lives in an extended family, (where grandparents live in their home together with their parents). A child whose parents have separated may experience stress, in which a child living in a nuclear family may not as it consists of both parents. Step families might generate difficulties for children because they have separated loyalties and may not get on with their step parent due to hatred. Shared care families, where children spend time with each of their parents in different homes, may produce a sense of insecurity and not knowing where they belong. Foster families care for children on a short-term basis and children may have suffered some form of distress before going there, such traumas can include; death of a family member, a type of abuse etc. Not knowing whether they will stay or return to their parents can cause children to become distraught and confused.

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In addition, the family determine the language that is learnt and how language is expressed by a child. Bernstein identified two types of language codes, firstly, the elaborated code where children were able to communicate with the wider society more effectively. Secondly, the restricted code could not make progress and children’s speech was complex to understand. The language taught or used within a household is a child’s norm therefore they too are likely to use the same language with others. For example, if swearing is used within a family household, the child will believe this is acceptable to use in society. Young children find it difficult to make changes which are against the norms, values and culture of their family. The family will also have an impact on children’s attitudes and aspirations towards education. Some families, value education highly and are aware that education is vital to social success and economic stability in adult life. Such families encourage learning among their children as a positive experience and aspire to provide their children with the best suitable opportunities within education. Furthermore, they are likely to use early year’s provision as a way to extend their children’s learning and social skills, in preparation to school. This will give them an advantage to others. Parental guidance and support is essential to have an impact on their children’s attitude to education this can be positive or negative among children. In contrast, some families believe education is not necessary. Through this, children are less likely to attend early year’s provision and as a result are less prepared for the demands of school. Research has suggested that in some families where the parents have not worked education is not valued.

Whatever family structure a child lives in, the family ought to make sure that they have the care, education and support they need. The culture, beliefs and values of a family have a direct influence on the learning and development of a child. Behaviour and moral values are learnt through primary socialisation within the family. Norms of behaviour are every so often imitated from other members of the family. As a child grows and develops, they mirror their upbringing in their personal characteristics.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors are those linked to where a child lives, plays or attends for activities and education.

  • Location

The location where children live and grow up is a central part in their learning and development. It regulates the facilities they can access, the activities they can take part in, the ease with which they can visit friends and extended family members, their education, their behaviour, visits they can go on and opportunities they have for social communication.

Families living in rural areas have access to many natural learning environments which can enhance their learning and development. Their interaction with nature and wildlife may compensate for any lack of facilities they experience. Nevertheless, children who grow up in a rural area may have limited facilities and have to travel to access early year’s education settings or other learning environments.

Families that live in urban areas are likely to have more access to early year’s settings, have a variety of learning opportunities such as; playgrounds, museums, zoos and other areas of interest, have better transport networks to get to other places of interest quicker. They have access to a wide variety of facilities and activities close to where they live, which could enhance their leaning and development. However, children who live in an urban area may experience social deprivation and have to cope with high crime rates and vandalism. Children living in high rise flats have limited space to play in and may not experience playing outdoors because it is difficult for parents to supervise them. In addition, urban areas consist of many families living in poverty, due to poorly cramped housing conditions such as; children living in high levelled flats are restricted the opportunity to get fresh air and play and explore the environment. Individual’s health is at risk due to; pollution form vehicle exhaust and bi-products of industry.

Statistics show that there are more one parent families living in inner city areas, and that these have limited access to family support networks. People often feel socially isolated, even though they are living in an area of high population, as neighbourhoods in today’s society do not always form the extended network they had used to. This may reduce the opportunities for interaction between children and adults. The government has recognised that these issues are having significant effect on children and their life chances. They are investing money in significantly deprived areas through the sure start scheme, with the aim of increasing access to good early year’s education.

Following studies carried out by environmental and developmental psychologist Gary Evans, a Cornell University professor. Loud, overcrowded living conditions may damagingly have an impact on a child’s social and emotional development. Research suggests that these environments ever so often resulted in parents communicating much less to children, for example, due to this infants and toddlers, will have few communication skills which will influence ability to connect with other people and build friendships.

Children do not chose the location they live in and have to rely on the opportunities they have to aid their learning and development. Parents have a responsibility to ensure that wherever they live, their children do not feel deprived and can have a range of experiences to aid their development. This may involve taking them to activities in the car or on the bus if there is a distance to travel, supervising them wherever they are and being inventive with the activities they provide themselves.

According to the World Health Organization, an intellectually stimulating environment aids social and emotional development by enhancing cognitive/intellectual development. They urge that a stimulating environment does not need a lot of money to produce, for example, parents can provide babies and toddlers with a harmless clean area to explore a few attention-grabbing toys and some baby-safe household items that produce noise and exploration.

Economic Factors

Economic factors can have a huge impact on the development of a child. Children cost money, as they require housing, food, clothes, toys and activities.

  • Income

Family income has a major influence on the opportunities children could have. It will impact the area which a child lives, the quality of food they eat, the toys they have access to in the home and learning opportunities they experience outside the home.

The income of families differs significantly. One family may have two incomes, if both parents are working, whereas others may be dependent on benefits from the government. The children in both families have basic needs which should be met. A family must balance their income with necessary expenses, which consists of cautious budgeting. The amount of disposable income is the money left after the essentials are paid for, these can include; food, housing, clothing etc. The amount of disposable income left over will affect other factors such; outings, holidays, memberships of clubs and extracurricular activities that children may aspire to take part in (for example, swimming, dancing lessons etc.).

Buying or renting a house or flat is one of the largest expenses a family may encounter. Some children may live in damp, overcrowded conditions in which children are restricted to play and be active while others may have a big house with central heating and a garden where children may play safely. These differences will affect the development of the child and the experiences/opportunities they have to improve their learning.

Diet can also be affected by the income of a family. Children require a balanced diet with all the essential nutrients for growth and development. Some children may be deprived of the crucial nutrients if their parents cannot afford to buy fresh, healthy foods; this has an impact on a child’s development. Children whose parents both work might have a diet that consists of convenience foods that are not healthy. A child’s diet can also have a direct impact on their ability to learn, for example, if they skip breakfast they are very likely to be exhausted and unable to concentrate in school, yet a child who eats a healthy diet will be much more attentive and encouraged to learn. Evidence shows that parents will model unhealthy eating habits for their children, who are also dependent on their parents for what is put on the food table. Therefore, this suggests that parents must be healthy role models to ensure their children are too.

Clothing is vital to preserve self-respect and keep children warm. Young children grow rapidly and every so often grow out of clothes before they are even old and worn out. Stylish clothing can be very expensive and children can experience peer pressure from others or even be bullied if they do not follow the popular trends. Therefore, this has a direct impact on their social and emotional development. In some cases, children may demand expensive clothing from their parents, who may be having trouble budgeting their income; this can affect the relationship between the child and parents and may lead to conflict with the child and parents being pressured.

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A University of California at Davis Center for Poverty Research study shows that how a mother responds to economic stress affects her child’s social and emotional health. Mothers that respond negatively were more likely to have negative communication with their child/children. Researchers found over the long term, “a mother’s depressive symptoms are a better predictor of social competence than both income and education.” How parents cope with financial stress can have a stronger effect on children’s social and emotional development.

Physical Factors

When infants and children are poorly they become irritated and are incapable to understand new concepts; they may have trouble carrying out tasks that they could normally do easily before feeling unwell, for example even having a cold or a childhood illness such as; chicken pox or measles and cause specific problems.

  • Disability

Individuals that work with children and young people must have knowledge and understanding of the values of care, especially trying to ensure that they construct an environment and atmosphere that is beneficial to everybody. Practice means that the care setting will grow into a reality for children, families and colleagues.

This can be achieved by;

  • Displaying positive images of all people, for example, those with disabilities are shown positively in books and other materials
  • Inspiring children to use their ideal language when participating in activities
  • Singing in diverse languages to familiarise children with hearing different languages
  • Having a care worker who could communicate using sign language or braille
  • Ensuring children with physical disabilities have full access to all of the activities and equipment available within settings

The arrangement of the activities might need to be altered within care settings, to ensure that children who do have physical disabilities can access all areas, for example, moving tables or having furniture of different heights. A variety of specialist equipment has been established to enable children with special needs to play and learn together with other children, for example, adjustable chairs or painting easels.



Prendergast Sixth Form AS GCE Health and Social Care Six Unit Award Unit Specification & Grading Criteria- 3.6 AS Unit F915: Working in Early Years Care and Education pages 27-30 Unit F915- Assessment Evidence Grid and Amplification of Criteria pages 114-118

Applied AS Health and Social Care Revised Edition Angela Fisher, Carol Blackmore, Stuart McKie, Mary Riley, Stephen Seamons, Marion Tyler OXFORD OCR pages 216-228 Unit 6 Working in Early Years Care and Education (6.2.4)

GCE AS Level Double Award AS Level for OCR Health & Social Care series editor Neil Moonie first published 2005 Unit 6 Working in Early Years and Education Pages 264-270
















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