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Why Larger Social Networks Can Benefit Your Child’s Early Development

Newly published research has shown the impact that maternal social relationships can have on early childhood development – and it’s suggesting the bigger, the better.

The Research Study

The body of knowledge on early childhood development is growing. As more research is conducted on the various factors that impact children’s developmental growth, we are learning that considerations go far beyond the biological to include a multitude of crucial environmental and social determinants.

Among these determinants are the social networks that young children are exposed to on a regular basis through their caregivers.

In the recently published article entitled “Association of Maternal Social Relationships With Cognitive Development in Early Childhood”, the authors investigate the association between social relationships and early childhood cognitive development in order to determine whether social relationships impact a child’s early cognitive development patterns.


The study, which is based off of data collected from 1082 pairs of mothers and their children, measured children’s cognitive development at two years of age using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID).

The findings show that social relationships beyond the nuclear family, maternal social networks in particular, are significantly associated with children’s cognitive development. Children with mothers who had larger local support networks experienced better cognitive development.

The authors hypothesize that this could be attributed to the fact that mothers who have larger social networks provide their children with more opportunities for playdates with other children or increased stimulation through a greater range of social activities. They also consider that wider support networks can help lessen the impact of economic vulnerability on child outcomes.

Breaking Social Isolation for Mothers and Growing Social Support Networks to Benefit the Family

The Mothers Matter Centre has long-since recognized the relationship between social inclusion and family wellbeing. Our initiatives are designed around the fundamental understanding that mothers are the catalyst for change within their families.

By accessing isolated, vulnerable mothers where they live – at home – our programs help move mothers from isolation to inclusion through group meetings, peer-to-peer network building, economic empowerment and professional development training, and opportunities for entry into the labour force.

The benefits of these interventions are felt by the entire family, particularly children who are better supported through their early developmental stages.

Read more

Shin, E., LeWinn, K., Bush, N., Tylavsky, F., Davis, R., Shabah-Nejad, A. (2019). Association of Maternal Social Relationships With Cognitive Development in Early Childhood. JAMA Network Open, 2(1), :e186963. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.6963

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