Children whose parents experience depression or use drugs and alcohol may be more impressionable than those in stable families, a study has found.
Demos, a new Labour-affiliated think tank, says such youngsters are more vulnerable to outside influences, meaning they have the potential to do better or worse than their peers, depending on the type of care they receive.
The report says: "Infants between birth and three years old are more malleable than they will be at any subsequent stage in their lives.
"A growing body of research suggests that due to genetic and/or environmental circumstances, difficult or emotionally troubled infants are even more malleable than stable, healthy infants of the same age. In other words, certain children are more strongly influenced by good and bad care."
Researchers say the report, which analysed data from more than 9,000 UK households, demonstrates the need for targeted intervention from an early age, arguing that a loving and consistent childhood will encourage the development of skills needed for a successful life.
"This is valuable information to direct and change the practice of taking children in care but continue to move them from one carer to another without stable social and environmental conditions" - Tsitsi Masukumem, London