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Research Questions

  1. Why is it important to invest in social and emotional development?
  2. What do we know about the children and families living in Shelby County, Tennessee?
  3. Why are interactions with parents and child care providers important for social and emotional development?
  4. How can individuals and organizations in Shelby County help improve the health and well-being of children in the area?

For children to flourish and succeed in the 21st century, they must be able to problem solve, to develop resilience and handle stress, and to interact appropriately with peers and adults. While there is significant focus on the racial/ethnic and economic disparities in academic achievement and other cognitive outcomes, far less attention has been paid to the capacities that help build social and emotional skills. Drawing on national, state, and local data, the Urban Child Institute partnered with the RAND Corporation to explore the social and emotional well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, Tenn. The book highlights the essential factors in the home, child care setting, and community that contribute to social and emotional development in young children and provides a narrative around the importance of investing in efforts that have the potential to impact social and emotional development during the first few years of life. Through this book, UCI and RAND call for a dialogue on how to support the youngest citizens of the Memphis and Shelby County community, and catalyze action in this direction.

Key Findings

  • Social and emotional development is a child's growing understanding of who they are, what they feel, and how they interact with others.
  • In Shelby County, about 25 percent of one-year-olds show problem behaviors that are related to difficulties regulating their emotions.
  • Many children in Shelby County live in poverty and have mothers who are single, young, and have less than a high school education.
  • Both parent-child and provider-child interactions are important to the development of a child's social and emotional skills.
  • Shelby County has valuable assets that provide stimulating environments for young children at little to no expense to families. There may be opportunities to further leverage these resources on behalf of children.

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