Background Adult knowledge of child development shapes their expectations and feedback to children as they learn and grow. Effective guidance of children by adults is influenced by their knowledge of child development.
Study questions/aims (1) What is adult Albertans’ knowledge of developmental milestones from birth to 6-years in four developmental domains: physical, cognitive/language, social, and emotional? (2) What parenting supports do adults use regarding child development?
Methods 1,451 randomly selected adults in Alberta, both parents and non-parents, completed a telephone survey exploring knowledge about child development and parenting supports. Data was analysed using univariate and multivariate techniques (p < 0.05).
Results 35% of adults identified when at least half of physical developmental milestones typically occur; 23%, 16%, and 11% could do so for cognitive/language, emotional, and social development milestones respectively. Errors in reporting when milestones typically occur were primarily related to respondents thinking a milestone was achieved earlier. Knowledge has not changed since a similar survey in 2007. Gaps in child development knowledge did not differ substantively between parents/non-parents, females/males or urban/rural residence. Respondents identified key parenting supports to be family members (76%), family doctors or paediatricians (61%), and teachers (54%). Common resources included books (68%), television/media (43%), and the internet (36%).
Conclusions There were meaningful gaps in adult knowledge of when children achieve developmental milestones. Evidence to date suggests that better child outcomes begin with accurate parent knowledge of child development. There is opportunity to help parents and care providers become more aware of these milestones through knowledge dissemination strategies.