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Working Paper 6Working Paper #6

Establishing a Level Foundation for Life: Mental Health Begins in Early Childhood


Sound mental health provides an essential foundation of stability that supports all other aspects of human development—from the formation of friendships and the ability to cope with adversity to the achievement of success in school, work, and community life. Similar to the way a wobbly table may not function well if the floor is uneven, the legs are not aligned, or the tabletop is not level, the destabilizing consequences of problems in mental health can be caused by many interdependent factors. Just as small “wobbles” in a table can become bigger and more difficult to fix over time, the effective management of mental health concerns in young children requires early identification of the causes and appropriate attention to their source, whether they reside in the environment, the child, or (most frequently) in both. This report from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child summarizes in clear language why understanding how emotional well-being can be strengthened or disrupted in early childhood can help policymakers promote the kinds of environments and experiences that prevent problems and remediate early difficulties so they do not destabilize the developmental process.

Suggested citation: National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2008/2012). Establishing a Level Foundation for Life: Mental Health Begins in Early Childhood: Working Paper 6. Updated Edition. http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu


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