To thrive, a child must experience the consistent and ongoing care by a loving, nurturing caregiver, whether that person is a parent or substitute caregiver. The security and support that such an adult can provide gives a child the self-confidence and resiliency to cope effectively with stress.
To mature emotionally and socially, children must interact with people outside the home. These interactions typically occur with close relatives; friends; neighbors; and people at child care sites, schools, churches, and sports teams or other activities. By coping with the minor stresses and conflicts inherent in these interactions, children gradually acquire the skills to handle more significant stressors. Children also learn by watching how the adults in their lives handle distress.
Certain major events, such as illness and divorce, may challenge a child's abilities to cope. These events may also interfere with the child's emotional and social development. For example, a chronic illness may prevent a child from participating in activities and also impair performance in school.
Events affecting the child may also have negative consequences for people close to the child. Everyone who cares for a sick child is under stress. The consequences of such stress vary with the nature and severity of the illness and with the family's emotional resources and other resources and supports.
Last full review/revision July 2007 by Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD