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The Science of Early Childhood Development Closing the Gap Between What We Know and What We Do Council Members Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., Chair Charles A. Nelson, Ph.D. Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor Richard David Scott Chair in Pediatric of Child Health and Development Developm
  The Science of Early Childhood Development Closing the Gap Between  What We Know and What We Do  Council Members  Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., Chair  Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development Director, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University   W. Tomas Boyce, M.D. Sunny Hill Health Centre/BC Leadership Chair in Child DevelopmentProfessor, Graduate Studies and Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver  Judy Cameron, Ph.D. Professor of Psychiatry, University of PittsburghSenior Scientist, Oregon National Primate Research CenterProfessor of Behavioral Neuroscience and Obstetrics & Gynecology, Oregon Health and Science University  Greg Duncan, Ph.D. Edwina S. arry Professor of Human Development and Social Policy Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University  Nathan A. Fox, Ph.D. Professor of Human Development, University of Maryland College Park   William Greenough, Ph.D. Swanlund Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Cell and Developmental Biology Director, Center for Advanced Study at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Megan Gunnar, Ph.D. Regents Professor and Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota  Eric Knudsen, Ph.D. Edward C. and Amy H. Sewall Professor of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine Pat Levitt, Ph.D. Professor of Pharmacology  Annette Schaffer Eskind Chair and Director, Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, Vanderbilt University  Betsy Lozoff, M.D. Professor of Pediatrics, University of Michigan Medical SchoolResearch Professor, Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan Charles A. Nelson, Ph.D. Richard David Scott Chair in Pediatric Developmental Medicine Research, Children’s Hospital BostonProfessor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School Deborah Phillips, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology and Associated Faculty, Public Policy Institute Co-Director, Research Center on Children in the U.S., Georgetown University  Ross Tompson, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis Contributing Members Susan Nall Bales President, FrameWorks Institute  James J. Heckman, Ph.D. Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D.  Alfred E. Mirsky Professor Head, Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology, Te Rockefeller University   Arthur J. Rolnick, Ph.D. Senior Vice President and Director of Research, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Council Partners Te FrameWorks InstituteTe Johnson & Johnson Pediatric InstituteTe National Conference of State Legislatures Council Sponsors Te Buffett Early Childhood Fund Te Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Fund Te John D. and Catherine . MacArthur Foundation Suggested citation: Te Science of Early Childhood Development. (2007) National Scientific Council on the Developing Child.  © JANUARY 2007 NATIONAL SCIENTIFIC COUNCIL ON THE DEVELOPING CHILD Second Printing—  Nov ember 2007 1  he future of any society   depends on its ability to foster the health and well-being of the next generation. Stated simply, today’s children will become tomorrow’s citizens, workers, and par-ents. When we invest wisely in children and families, the next generation will pay that back through a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship. When we fail to provide chil-dren with what they need to build a strong foundation for healthy and productive lives, we put our future prosperity and security at risk. wo recent developments have stimulated growing public discussion about the right balance between individual and shared responsibility for that strong foundation. Te first is the explosion of research in neurobiology that clari-fies the extent to which the interaction between genetics and early experience literally shapes brain architecture. Te second is the increasingly recognized need for a highly skilled workforce and healthy adult population to confront the growing challenges of global economic competition and the rising costs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for the aging baby boomers.In an effort to identify those aspects of development that are accepted broad-ly by the scientific community, the National Scientific Council, based at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, brought together several of the nation’s leading neuroscientists, developmental psychologists, pediatricians, and economists. Tis document presents their critical review of the existing literatures in their fields and a consensus about what we now know about development in the early childhood years. Te objective of the Council is to move beyond the public’s fascination with “the latest study” and focus on the cumulative knowledge of decades of re-search that has been subjected to rigorous and continuous peer review. Te goal of this document is to help the public and its policy makers understand the core principles of that body of work that are now sufficiently accepted across the scientific community to warrant public action.It is our hope and belief that better public understanding of the rapidly growing science of early childhood and early brain development can provide a powerful impetus for the design and implementa-tion of policies and programs that could make a significant difference in the lives of all children. With-out that understanding, investments that could generate significant returns for all of society stand the risk of being rejected or undermined. Tus, there is a compelling need for scientists to share with the public and its representatives an objective basis for choosing wisely among competing demands on lim-ited resources. Tis paper is designed to provide a framework within which this complex challenge can be addressed most effectively. Its goal is to promote an understanding of the basic science of early childhood devel-opment, including its underlying neurobiology, to inform both public and private sector investment in young children and their families. o this end, the paper presents a set of core developmental concepts that have emerged from decades of rigorous research in neurobiology, developmental psychology, and the economics of human capital formation, and considers their implications for a range of issues in pol-icy and practice. Core Concepts of Development  ã Child development is a foundation for community development and economic development, as capable children become the foundation of a prosperous and sustainable society. ã Brains are built over time. ã Te interactive influences of genes and experience literally shape the architecture of the developing brain, and the active ingredient is the “serve and return” nature of children’s engagement in relationships with their parents and other caregivers in their family or community. Executive Summary   2 ã Both brain architecture and developing abilities are built “from the bottom up,” with simple circuits and skills providing the scaffolding for more advanced circuits and skills over time.ã oxic stress in early childhood is associated with persistent effects on the nervous system and stress hormone systems that can damage developing brain architecture and lead to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health. ã Creating the right conditions for early childhood development is likely to be more effective and less costly than addressing problems at a later age. Implications for Policy and Practice ã Policy initiatives that promote supportive relationships and rich learning opportunities for young children create a strong founda-tion for higher school achievement followed by greater productivity in the workplace and solid citizenship in the community.ã Substantial progress toward this goal can be achieved by assuring growth-promoting experiences both at home and in community-based settings, through a range of parent education, family support, early care and education, preschool, and intervention services.ã When parents, informal community programs, and professionally staffed early childhood services pay attention to young children’s emotional and social needs, as well as to their mastery of literacy and cognitive skills, they have maximum impact on the development of sturdy brain architecture and preparation for success in school. ã When basic health and early childhood programs monitor the de-velopment of all children, problems that require attention can be identified in a timely fashion and intervention can be provided.ã Te basic principles of neuroscience and the technology of human skill formation indicate that later remediation for highly vulner-able children will produce less favorable outcomes and cost more than appropriate intervention at a younger age.ã Te essence of quality in early childhood services is embodied in the expertise and skills of the staff and in their capacity to build positive relationships with young children. Te striking shortage of well-trained personnel in the field today indicates that substantial investments in training, recruiting, com-pensating, and retaining a high quality workforce must be a top priority.ã Responsible investments in services for young children and their families focus on benefits relative to cost. Inexpensive services that do not meet quality standards are a waste of money. Stated simply, sound policies seek maximum value rather than minimal cost.Te need to address significant inequalities in opportunity, beginning in the earliest years of life, is both a fundamental moral responsibility and a critical investment in our nation’s social and economic fu-ture. Tus, the time has come to close the gap between what we know (from systematic scientific inquiry across a broad range of disciplines) and what we do (through both public and private sector policies and practices) to promote the healthy development of all young children. Te science of early childhood de-velopment can provide a powerful framework for informing sound choices among alternative priorities and for building consensus around a shared plan of action. Te well-being of our nation’s children and the security of its future would be well-served by such wise choices and concerted commitment.
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