This report explores the importance of interpersonal relationships in the development of a child. It begins by discussing the benefits of a secure mother and child relationship, peer relationships, relationships with caregivers in day care, teacher student relationships, and relationships with other caring adults. Unfounded scientific assertions about the influence of relationships on children are identified, and the gap between scientific findings and policy is examined. Implications for the development of policy that promote the well-being of children are discussed, and include: the involvement of children in reciprocal learning interactions with teachers and peers rather than isolated pre-academic work in early childhood education; extending the length and coverage of leave currently provided under the Family and Medical Leave Act; and evaluating and treating the abuse or neglect of young children as a matter of child health and development within the context of a family relationship crisis. The report calls for the regularized referral of suspected cases of child abuse or neglect from the child welfare system to the early intervention system to assure appropriate developmental and behavioral assessment and treatment as needed. In addition, it is recommended that child abuse prevention strategies emphasize both the developmental needs of children and the importance of community-based supports for families. 78 references.
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