Science tells us that the foundations of sound mental health are built early in life. Early experiences—including children’s relationships with parents, caregivers, relatives, teachers, and peers—interact with genes to shape the architecture of the developing brain. Disruptions in this developmental process can impair a child’s capacities for learning and relating to others, with lifelong implications.
This edition of the InBrief series explains how improving children’s environments of relationships and experiences early in life can prevent initial difficulties from destabilizing later development and mental health.
Reducing the effects of significant adversity on young children’s healthy development is critical to the progress and prosperity of any society. The science of resilience can help us understand why some children do well despite serious adversity. These three videos provide an overview of why resilience matters, how it develops, and how to strengthen it in children.
Building Adult Capabilities to Improve Child Outcomes: A Theory of Change
This 5-minute video depicts a theory of change from the Frontiers of Innovation community for achieving breakthrough outcomes for vulnerable children and families. It describes the need to focus on building the capabilities of caregivers and strengthening the communities that together form the environment of relationships essential to children's lifelong learning, health, and behavior.
Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience
Decades of research in the behavioral and social sciences have produced substantial evidence that children who do well despite serious hardship have had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. This Working Paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child explains how protective factors in the social environment and highly responsive biological systems interact to produce resilience, or the ability to adapt in the face of significant adversity.
Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Children from Infancy to Adolescence
Executive function and self-regulation (EF/SR) skills provide critical supports for learning and development, and while we aren’t born with these skills, we are born with the potential to develop them through interactions and practice.
This 16-page guide describes a variety of activities and games that represent age-appropriate ways for adults to support and strengthen various components of EF/SR in children. Each chapter of this guide contains activities suitable for a different age group, from infants to teenagers.
The science of child development shows that the foundation for sound mental health is built early in life, as early experiences—which include children’s relationships with parents, caregivers, relatives, teachers, and peers—shape the architecture of the developing brain. This two-page summary explains how experiences interact with genetic predispositions to shape an enduring foundation for mental health in early childhood and how interventions can treat or prevent disruptions with lifelong implications for learning, behavior, and health.