Publications by authors named "Jack P Shonkoff"

27 Publications

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Early Childhood Adversity, Toxic Stress, and the Impacts of Racism on the Foundations of Health.

Annu Rev Public Health 2021 Apr 26;42:115-134. Epub 2021 Jan 26.

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.

Inequalities in health outcomes impose substantial human and economic costs on all societies-and the relation between early adversity and lifelong well-being presents a rich scientific framework for fresh thinking about health promotion and disease prevention broadly, augmented by a deeper focus on how racism influences disparities more specifically. This review begins with an overview of advances in the biology of adversity and resilience through an early childhood lens, followed by an overview of the unique effects of racism on health and a selective review of findings from related intervention research. This article presents a framework for addressing multiple dimensions of the public health challenge-including institutional/structural racism, cultural racism, and interpersonal discrimination-and concludes with the compelling need to protect the developing brain and other biological systems from the physiological disruptions of toxic stress that can undermine the building blocks of optimal health and development in the early childhood period.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-090419-101940DOI Listing
April 2021

Genes, Environments, and Time: The Biology of Adversity and Resilience.

Pediatrics 2021 Feb;147(2)

Center on the Developing Child and

Exposures to adverse environments, both psychosocial and physicochemical, are prevalent and consequential across a broad range of childhood populations. Such adversity, especially early in life, conveys measurable risk to learning and behavior and to the foundations of both mental and physical health. Using an interactive gene-environment-time (GET) framework, we survey the independent and interactive roles of genetic variation, environmental context, and developmental timing in light of advances in the biology of adversity and resilience, as well as new discoveries in biomedical research. Drawing on this rich evidence base, we identify 4 core concepts that provide a powerful catalyst for fresh thinking about primary health care for young children: (1) all biological systems are inextricably integrated, continuously "reading" and adapting to the environment and "talking back" to the brain and each other through highly regulated channels of cross-system communication; (2) adverse environmental exposures induce alterations in developmental trajectories that can lead to persistent disruptions of organ function and structure; (3) children vary in their sensitivity to context, and this variation is influenced by interactions among genetic factors, family and community environments, and developmental timing; and (4) critical or sensitive periods provide unmatched windows of opportunity for both positive and negative influences on multiple biological systems. These rapidly moving frontiers of investigation provide a powerful framework for new, science-informed thinking about health promotion and disease prevention in the early childhood period.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-1651DOI Listing
February 2021

Leveraging the Biology of Adversity and Resilience to Transform Pediatric Practice.

Pediatrics 2021 Feb 25;147(2). Epub 2021 Jan 25.

The Rockefeller University, New York, New York.

Advances in science are fundamentally changing the way we understand how inextricable interactions among genetic predispositions, physical and social environments, and developmental timing influence early childhood development and the foundations of health and how significant early adversity can lead to a lifetime of chronic health impairments. This article and companion article illustrate the extent to which differential outcomes are shaped by ongoing interactive adaptations to context that begin at or even before conception and continue throughout life, with increasing evidence pointing to the importance of the prenatal period and early infancy for the developing brain, the immune system, and metabolic regulation. Although new discoveries in the basic sciences are transforming tertiary medical care and producing breakthrough outcomes in treating disease, this knowledge is not being leveraged effectively to inform new approaches to promoting whole-child development and preventing illness. The opportunity for pediatrics to serve as the leading edge of science-based innovation across the early childhood ecosystem has never been more compelling. In this article, we present a framework for leveraging the frontiers of scientific discovery to inform new strategies in pediatric practice and advocacy to protect all developing biological systems from the disruptive effects of excessive early adversity beyond providing information on child development for parents and enriched learning experiences for young children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-3845DOI Listing
February 2021

Impacts of Early Childhood Education on Medium- and Long-Term Educational Outcomes.

Educ Res 2017 Nov 15;46(8):474-487. Epub 2017 Nov 15.

Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

Despite calls to expand early childhood education (ECE) in the United States, questions remain regarding its medium- and long-term impacts on educational outcomes. We use meta-analysis of 22 high-quality experimental and quasi-experimental studies conducted between 1960 and 2016 to find that on average, participation in ECE leads to statistically significant reductions in special education placement ( = 0.33 , 8.1 percentage points) and grade retention ( = 0.26 , 8.3 percentage points) and increases in high school graduation rates ( = 0.24 , 11.4 percentage points). These results support ECE's utility for reducing education-related expenditures and promoting child well-being.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/0013189X17737739DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6107077PMC
November 2017

Rethinking the Definition of Evidence-Based Interventions to Promote Early Childhood Development.

Authors:
Jack P Shonkoff

Pediatrics 2017 12 14;140(6). Epub 2017 Nov 14.

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-3136DOI Listing
December 2017

From Innovation to Impact at Scale: Lessons Learned From a Cluster of Research-Community Partnerships.

Child Dev 2017 09 4;88(5):1435-1446. Epub 2017 Aug 4.

Harvard University.

This article presents a description of how an interdisciplinary network of academic researchers, community-based programs, parents, and state agencies have joined together to design, test, and scale a suite of innovative intervention strategies rooted in new knowledge about the biology of adversity. Through a process of cocreation, collective pilot testing, and the support of a measurement and evaluation hub, the Washington Innovation Cluster is using rapid cycle iterative learning to elucidate differential impacts of interventions designed to build child and caregiver capacities and address the developmental consequences of socioeconomic disadvantage. Key characteristics of the Innovation Cluster model are described and an example is presented of a video-coaching intervention that has been implemented, adapted, and evaluated through this distinctive collaborative process.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12904DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5583016PMC
September 2017

Commentary: The course of life and life, of course: a commentary on Ben-Shlomo, Cooper and Kuh.

Int J Epidemiol 2016 08;45(4):1000-1002

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyw107DOI Listing
August 2016

Expanding the evidence base to drive more productive early childhood investment.

Lancet 2017 01 4;389(10064):14-16. Epub 2016 Oct 4.

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA; TruePoint Center, Burlington, MA, USA; Center for Higher Ambition Leadership, Burlington, MA, USA.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31702-0DOI Listing
January 2017

Capitalizing on Advances in Science to Reduce the Health Consequences of Early Childhood Adversity.

Authors:
Jack P Shonkoff

JAMA Pediatr 2016 Oct;170(10):1003-1007

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts2Harvard Medical School, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts3Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Advances in biology are providing deeper insights into how early experiences are built into the body with lasting effects on learning, behavior, and health. Numerous evaluations of interventions for young children facing adversity have demonstrated multiple, positive effects but they have been highly variable and difficult to sustain or scale. New research on plasticity and critical periods in development, increasing understanding of how gene-environment interaction affects variation in stress susceptibility and resilience, and the emerging availability of measures of toxic stress effects that are sensitive to intervention provide much-needed fuel for science-informed innovation in the early childhood arena. This growing knowledge base suggests 4 shifts in thinking about policy and practice: (1) early experiences affect lifelong health, not just learning; (2) healthy brain development requires protection from toxic stress, not just enrichment; (3) achieving breakthrough outcomes for young children facing adversity requires supporting the adults who care for them to transform their own lives; and (4) more effective interventions are needed in the prenatal period and first 3 years after birth for the most disadvantaged children and families. The time has come to leverage 21st-century science to catalyze the design, testing, and scaling of more powerful approaches for reducing lifelong disease by mitigating the effects of early adversity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.1559DOI Listing
October 2016

Racial Disparities in Child Adversity in the U.S.: Interactions With Family Immigration History and Income.

Am J Prev Med 2016 Jan 2;50(1):47-56. Epub 2015 Sep 2.

Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.

Introduction: Childhood adversity is an under-addressed dimension of primary prevention of disease in children and adults. Evidence shows racial/ethnic and socioeconomic patterning of childhood adversity in the U.S., yet data on the interaction of race/ethnicity and SES for exposure risk is limited, particularly with consideration of immigration history. This study examined racial/ethnic differences in nine adversities among children (from birth to age 17 years) in the National Survey of Child Health (2011-2012) and determined how differences vary by immigration history and income (N=84,837).

Methods: We estimated cumulative adversity and individual adversity prevalences among white, black, and Hispanic children of U.S.-born and immigrant parents. We examined whether family income mediated the relationship between race/ethnicity and exposure to adversities, and tested interactions (analyses conducted in 2014-2015).

Results: Across all groups, black and Hispanic children were exposed to more adversities compared with white children, and income disparities in exposure were larger than racial/ethnic disparities. For children of U.S.-born parents, these patterns of racial/ethnic and income differences were present for most individual adversities. Among children of immigrant parents, there were few racial/ethnic differences for individual adversities and income gradients were inconsistent. Among children of U.S.-born parents, the Hispanic-white disparity in exposure to adversities persisted after adjustment for income, and racial/ethnic disparities in adversity were largest among children from high-income families.

Conclusions: Simultaneous consideration of multiple social statuses offers promising frameworks for fresh thinking about the distribution of disease and the design of targeted interventions to reduce preventable health disparities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2015.06.013DOI Listing
January 2016

Maximizing the potential of early childhood education to prevent externalizing behavior problems: A meta-analysis.

J Sch Psychol 2015 Jun;53(3):243-63

Harvard University, USA.

Early childhood education (ECE) programs offer a promising mechanism for preventing early externalizing behavior problems and later antisocial behavior; yet, questions remain about how to best maximize ECE's potential. Using a meta-analytic database of 31 studies, we examined the overall effect of ECE on externalizing behavior problems and the differential effects of 3 levels of practice, each with increasing specificity and intensity aimed at children's social and emotional development. In short, we found that each successive level of programs did a better job than the prior level at reducing externalizing behavior problems. Level 1 programs, or those without a clear focus on social and emotional development, had no significant effects on externalizing behavior problems relative to control groups (ES=.13 SD, p<.10). On the other hand, level 2 programs, or those with a clear but broad focus on social and emotional development, were significantly associated with modest decreases in externalizing behavior problems relative to control groups (ES=-.10 SD, p<.05). Hence, level 2 programs were significantly better at reducing externalizing behavior problems than level 1 programs (ES=-.23 SD, p<.01). Level 3 programs, or those that more intensively targeted children's social and emotional development, were associated with additional significant reductions in externalizing behavior problems relative to level 2 programs (ES=-.26 SD, p<.05). The most promising effects came from level 3 child social skills training programs, which reduced externalizing behavior problems half of a standard deviation more than level 2 programs (ES=-.50 SD, p<.05).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2015.04.001DOI Listing
June 2015

Interventions to improve cortisol regulation in children: a systematic review.

Pediatrics 2014 Feb 13;133(2):312-26. Epub 2014 Jan 13.

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts;

Childhood adversity is associated with physiologic dysregulation across multiple biological systems; however, relatively little is known about whether these changes are reversible with intervention. The objective of this review was to examine evidence for the effectiveness of interventions to promote healthy cortisol regulation in children. We selected articles from English-language publications in PubMed and EBSCO databases through 2012. Two independent reviewers assessed articles against eligibility criteria. Eligible studies were randomized controlled or quasi-experimental studies designed to improve relationships, environments, or psychosocial functioning in children and examined cortisol as an outcome. We identified 19 articles. There was substantial heterogeneity across studies with regard to age, selection criteria, intervention design, cortisol assessment, and follow-up duration. Eighteen of the 19 articles reported at least 1 difference in baseline cortisol, diurnal cortisol, or cortisol responsivity between intervention and control participants. Importantly, however, there was remarkable inconsistency with regard to how the interventions influenced cortisol. Therefore, studies that included a low-risk comparison group (n = 8) provided critical insight, and each found some evidence that postintervention cortisol levels in the intervention group approximated the low-risk comparison group and differed from children receiving usual care. In conclusion, existing studies show that cortisol activity can be altered by psychosocial interventions. These findings are promising, not only because they indicate physiologic plasticity that can be leveraged by interventions but also because they suggest it may be possible to repair regulatory systems after childhood adversity, which could inform strategies for reducing health disparities and promoting lasting improvements in health.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-1632DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3904273PMC
February 2014

Rethinking evidence-based practice and two-generation programs to create the future of early childhood policy.

Dev Psychopathol 2013 Nov;25(4 Pt 2):1635-53

University of Oregon.

Half a century of research and program evaluation has fueled a diverse landscape of early childhood policies and practices that produce a range of positive effects on the life prospects of children who face the burdens of significant adversity. Drawing on advances in neurobiology, developmental psychology, developmental psychopathology, and prevention science, this paper presents a framework for elucidating underlying causal mechanisms that explain differences in outcomes, formulating enhanced theories of change about how to shift developmental trajectories, designing creative interventions and rethinking the concept of a two-generation strategy to produce breakthrough impacts, and launching a new era of investment in young children and their families that will achieve greater reductions in intergenerational disparities in learning, behavior, and health than those produced by current best practices. Particular attention is focused on the hypothesis that substantially better outcomes for vulnerable, young children could be achieved by greater attention to strengthening the resources and capabilities of the adults who care for them rather than by continuing to focus primarily on the provision of child-focused enrichment, parenting education, and informal support. Central to achieving this goal is the need to establish an innovation-friendly environment that embraces fast-cycle sharing, supports risk taking, and celebrates learning from failure.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579413000813DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4745587PMC
November 2013

Changing the narrative for early childhood investment.

Authors:
Jack P Shonkoff

JAMA Pediatr 2014 Feb;168(2):105-6

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4212DOI Listing
February 2014

Leveraging the biology of adversity to address the roots of disparities in health and development.

Authors:
Jack P Shonkoff

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2012 Oct 8;109 Suppl 2:17302-7. Epub 2012 Oct 8.

Center on Developing Child at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

Extensive evidence that personal experiences and environmental exposures are embedded biologically (for better or for worse) and the cumulative knowledge of more than four decades of intervention research provide a promising opportunity to mobilize evolving scientific insights to catalyze a new era of more effective early childhood policy and practice. Drawing on emerging hypotheses about causal mechanisms that link early adversity with lifelong impairments in learning, behavior, and health, this paper proposes an enhanced theory of change to promote better outcomes for vulnerable, young children by strengthening caregiver and community capacities to reduce or mitigate the impacts of toxic stress, rather than simply providing developmental enrichment for the children and parenting education for their mothers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1121259109DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3477384PMC
October 2012

An integrated scientific framework for child survival and early childhood development.

Pediatrics 2012 Feb 4;129(2):e460-72. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

Building a strong foundation for healthy development in the early years of life is a prerequisite for individual well-being, economic productivity, and harmonious societies around the world. Growing scientific evidence also demonstrates that social and physical environments that threaten human development (because of scarcity, stress, or instability) can lead to short-term physiologic and psychological adjustments that are necessary for immediate survival and adaptation, but which may come at a significant cost to long-term outcomes in learning, behavior, health, and longevity. Generally speaking, ministries of health prioritize child survival and physical well-being, ministries of education focus on schooling, ministries of finance promote economic development, and ministries of welfare address breakdowns across multiple domains of function. Advances in the biological and social sciences offer a unifying framework for generating significant societal benefits by catalyzing greater synergy across these policy sectors. This synergy could inform more effective and efficient investments both to increase the survival of children born under adverse circumstances and to improve life outcomes for those who live beyond the early childhood period yet face high risks for diminished life prospects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2011-0366DOI Listing
February 2012

The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress.

Pediatrics 2012 Jan 26;129(1):e232-46. Epub 2011 Dec 26.

Advances in fields of inquiry as diverse as neuroscience, molecular biology, genomics, developmental psychology, epidemiology, sociology, and economics are catalyzing an important paradigm shift in our understanding of health and disease across the lifespan. This converging, multidisciplinary science of human development has profound implications for our ability to enhance the life prospects of children and to strengthen the social and economic fabric of society. Drawing on these multiple streams of investigation, this report presents an ecobiodevelopmental framework that illustrates how early experiences and environmental influences can leave a lasting signature on the genetic predispositions that affect emerging brain architecture and long-term health. The report also examines extensive evidence of the disruptive impacts of toxic stress, offering intriguing insights into causal mechanisms that link early adversity to later impairments in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental well-being. The implications of this framework for the practice of medicine, in general, and pediatrics, specifically, are potentially transformational. They suggest that many adult diseases should be viewed as developmental disorders that begin early in life and that persistent health disparities associated with poverty, discrimination, or maltreatment could be reduced by the alleviation of toxic stress in childhood. An ecobiodevelopmental framework also underscores the need for new thinking about the focus and boundaries of pediatric practice. It calls for pediatricians to serve as both front-line guardians of healthy child development and strategically positioned, community leaders to inform new science-based strategies that build strong foundations for educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, and lifelong health.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2011-2663DOI Listing
January 2012

Early childhood adversity, toxic stress, and the role of the pediatrician: translating developmental science into lifelong health.

Pediatrics 2012 Jan 26;129(1):e224-31. Epub 2011 Dec 26.

Advances in a wide range of biological, behavioral, and social sciences are expanding our understanding of how early environmental influences (the ecology) and genetic predispositions (the biologic program) affect learning capacities, adaptive behaviors, lifelong physical and mental health, and adult productivity. A supporting technical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) presents an integrated ecobiodevelopmental framework to assist in translating these dramatic advances in developmental science into improved health across the life span. Pediatricians are now armed with new information about the adverse effects of toxic stress on brain development, as well as a deeper understanding of the early life origins of many adult diseases. As trusted authorities in child health and development, pediatric providers must now complement the early identification of developmental concerns with a greater focus on those interventions and community investments that reduce external threats to healthy brain growth. To this end, AAP endorses a developing leadership role for the entire pediatric community-one that mobilizes the scientific expertise of both basic and clinical researchers, the family-centered care of the pediatric medical home, and the public influence of AAP and its state chapters-to catalyze fundamental change in early childhood policy and services. AAP is committed to leveraging science to inform the development of innovative strategies to reduce the precipitants of toxic stress in young children and to mitigate their negative effects on the course of development and health across the life span.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2011-2662DOI Listing
January 2012

Protecting brains, not simply stimulating minds.

Authors:
Jack P Shonkoff

Science 2011 Aug;333(6045):982-3

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 50 Church Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

Curricular enhancements in early childhood education that are guided by the science of learning must be augmented by protective interventions informed by the biology of adversity. The same neuroplasticity that leaves emotional regulation, behavioral adaptation, and executive functioning skills vulnerable to early disruption by stressful environments also enables their successful development through focused interventions during sensitive periods in their maturation. The early childhood field should therefore combine cognitive-linguistic enrichment with greater attention to preventing, reducing, or mitigating the consequences of significant adversity on the developing brain. Guided by this enhanced theory of change, scientists, practitioners, and policy-makers must work together to design, implement, and evaluate innovative strategies to produce substantially greater impacts than those achieved by existing programs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1206014DOI Listing
August 2011

Science does not speak for itself: translating child development research for the public and its policymakers.

Child Dev 2011 Jan-Feb;82(1):17-32

Developing Child, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

Science has an important role to play in advising policymakers on crafting effective responses to social problems that affect the development of children. This article describes lessons learned from a multiyear, working collaboration among neuroscientists, developmental psychologists, pediatricians, economists, and communications researchers who are engaged in the iterative construction of a core story of development, using simplifying models (i.e., metaphors) such as "brain architecture,"toxic stress," and "serve and return" to explain complex scientific concepts to nonscientists. The aim of this article is to stimulate more systematic, empirical approaches to the task of knowledge transfer and to underscore the need to view the translation of science into policy and practice as an important academic endeavor in its own right.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01538.xDOI Listing
June 2011

Neuroscience and the future of early childhood policy: moving from why to what and how.

Neuron 2010 Sep;67(5):689-91

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

There is a need for greater synergy between advances in neuroscience and the formulation of innovative policies to improve life outcomes for children experiencing significant adversity. Translational developmental neuroscience can inform new theories of change to catalyze more effective interventions that lead to a more productive and healthier society.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2010.08.032DOI Listing
September 2010

Building a new biodevelopmental framework to guide the future of early childhood policy.

Authors:
Jack P Shonkoff

Child Dev 2010 Jan-Feb;81(1):357-67

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

Four decades of early childhood policy and program development indicate that evidence-based interventions can improve life outcomes, and dramatic advances in the biological and behavioral sciences now provide an opportunity to augment those impacts. The challenge of reducing the gap between what we know and what we do to promote the healthy development of young children is to view current best practices as a starting point and to leverage scientific concepts to inspire fresh thinking. This article offers an integrated, biodevelopmental framework to promote greater understanding of the antecedents and causal pathways that lead to disparities in health, learning, and behavior in order to inform the development of enhanced theories of change to drive innovation in policies and programs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01399.xDOI Listing
August 2010

Neuroscience, molecular biology, and the childhood roots of health disparities: building a new framework for health promotion and disease prevention.

JAMA 2009 Jun;301(21):2252-9

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, 50 Church St, Fourth Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

A scientific consensus is emerging that the origins of adult disease are often found among developmental and biological disruptions occurring during the early years of life. These early experiences can affect adult health in 2 ways--either by cumulative damage over time or by the biological embedding of adversities during sensitive developmental periods. In both cases, there can be a lag of many years, even decades, before early adverse experiences are expressed in the form of disease. From both basic research and policy perspectives, confronting the origins of disparities in physical and mental health early in life may produce greater effects than attempting to modify health-related behaviors or improve access to health care in adulthood.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2009.754DOI Listing
June 2009

A promising opportunity for developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the interface of neuroscience, psychology, and social policy: remarks on receiving the 2005 C. Anderson Aldrich Award.

Authors:
Jack P Shonkoff

Pediatrics 2006 Nov;118(5):2187-91

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, 50 Church St, 4th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2006-1728DOI Listing
November 2006

Economic, neurobiological, and behavioral perspectives on building America's future workforce.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2006 Jul 26;103(27):10155-10162. Epub 2006 Jun 26.

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454-9110.

A growing proportion of the U.S. workforce will have been raised in disadvantaged environments that are associated with relatively high proportions of individuals with diminished cognitive and social skills. A cross-disciplinary examination of research in economics, developmental psychology, and neurobiology reveals a striking convergence on a set of common principles that account for the potent effects of early environment on the capacity for human skill development. Central to these principles are the findings that early experiences have a uniquely powerful influence on the development of cognitive and social skills and on brain architecture and neurochemistry, that both skill development and brain maturation are hierarchical processes in which higher level functions depend on, and build on, lower level functions, and that the capacity for change in the foundations of human skill development and neural circuitry is highest earlier in life and decreases over time. These findings lead to the conclusion that the most efficient strategy for strengthening the future workforce, both economically and neurobiologically, and improving its quality of life is to invest in the environments of disadvantaged children during the early childhood years.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0600888103DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1502427PMC
July 2006

Still waiting for the right questions.

Authors:
Jack P Shonkoff

Am J Prev Med 2003 Apr;24(3 Suppl):4-5

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454-9110, USA.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0749-3797(02)00647-5DOI Listing
April 2003

From neurons to neighborhoods: old and new challenges for developmental and behavioral pediatrics.

Authors:
Jack P Shonkoff

J Dev Behav Pediatr 2003 Feb;24(1):70-6

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02254, USA.

Rapidly advancing research in neurobiology and the behavioral and social sciences, coupled with dramatic changes in the social and economic circumstances under which families are raising young children, has created a highly dynamic context for early childhood policy, service delivery, and child rearing in the United States. A recent report from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, presents a critical analysis of that complex knowledge base and a set of recommendations designed to close the gap between what we know and what we do to promote the healthy development of young children. This article examines the report through the lens of developmental and behavioral pediatrics and highlights both exciting opportunities and sobering challenges.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/00004703-200302000-00014DOI Listing
February 2003