- Reports & Working Papers
- InBrief Series
- InBrief: The Science of Early Childhood Development
- InBrief: The Impact of Early Adversity on Children's Development
- InBrief: Early Childhood Program Effectiveness
- InBrief: The Foundations of Lifelong Health
- InBrief: Executive Function: Skills for Life and Learning
- InBrief: Early Childhood Mental Health
- InBrief: The Science of Neglect
- Science Briefs
- Evaluation Science Briefs
- InBrief Series
- Interactive Features
- The Spectrum of Neglect: Four Types of Unresponsive Care
- Driving Science-Based Innovation in Policy & Practice: A Logic Model
- How Early Experiences Get Into the Body: A Biodevelopmental Framework
- How Early Experiences Alter Gene Expression and Shape Development
- Core Concepts in the Science of Early Childhood Development
- Five Numbers to Remember About Early Childhood Development
- Decision-Maker's Guide - Interactive
- Lectures & Presentations
- Interactive Features
- Articles & Books
- Stories from the Field
The articles and books listed here represent recent works that have been authored, co-authored, or edited by Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff.
Articles and Chapters:
"A Healthy Start Before and After Birth: Applying the Biology of Adversity to Build the Capabilities of Caregivers"
Building on knowledge about early brain development and its impact on lifelong learning, behavior, and health, Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff calls in this book chapter for a fresh approach to two-generation strategies for improving child outcomes. The most effective programs, he writes, will take "current best practices…as a starting point, not a destination." Interventions that can go beyond simply providing adult caregivers with information to improving their executive functioning, mental health, and economic stability will also help promote competence and build resilience in children.
Suggested Citation: Shonkoff, J.P. (2014). A Healthy Start Before and After Birth: Applying the Biology of Adversity to Build the Capabilities of Caregivers. In K. McCartney, H. Yoshikawa, & L.B. Forcier (Eds.), Improving the Odds for America’s Children (pp. 28-39).
Current best practices in early childhood intervention should be starting points for innovation, not simply models for replication or the focus of quality improvement, says Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff in this editorial for JAMA Pediatrics. Shonkoff explains that, in program implementation, quality is often variable and effects modest. The science of early childhood development should drive new interventions and investments to reduce the biological embedding of early adversity, he asserts. To achieve significant progress, he calls for flexible planning and funding models that support innovation and encourage the testing of fresh ideas. He concludes: "The marching orders are clear—we must embrace a spirit of constructive dissatisfaction with best practices…and settle for nothing less than breakthrough impacts on important outcomes."
Suggested Citation: Shonkoff, J.P. (2014). Changing the Narrative for Early Childhood Investment. JAMA Pediatrics, 168(2), 105–106.
"Rethinking Evidence-Based Practice and Two-Generation Programs to Create the Future of Early Childhood Policy"
Arguing for a "new role for biology" in early childhood policy and practice, Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff and co-author and Center Senior Fellow Philip A. Fisher call for the development of new early childhood intervention strategies based on science-driven innovation rather than quality improvement or system building alone. They suggest that better child outcomes could result from hybridized two-generation approaches instead of simply linking separate child-focused and adult-focused services. The authors also encourage the publication of intervention studies that did not achieve positive results but nonetheless might offer insights that could stimulate fresh thinking. "The achievement of substantially larger intervention impacts," they write, "requires a more dynamic environment that invites experimentation, supports responsible risk taking, and learns from failure."
Suggested Citation: Shonkoff, J.P., and Fisher, P.A. (2013). Rethinking evidence-based practice and two-generation programs to create the future of early childhood policy. Development and Psychopathology, 25 (4, part 2), 1635–1653.
Copyright Cambridge University Press, 2013.
"Strengthening Adult Capacities to Improve Child Outcomes: A New Strategy for Reducing Intergenerational Poverty"
This commentary by Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff advocates for a new strategy for addressing the factors that contribute to intergenerational poverty. Drawing on advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, and behavioral sciences, Shonkoff proposes the use of innovative "two-generation" programs to help build the types of core adult capabilities that are critical for success as parents and as workers.
Suggested citation: Shonkoff, J.P. (2013). Strengthening Adult Capacities to Improve Child Outcomes: A New Strategy for Reducing Intergenerational Poverty. Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity: The Source for News, Ideas and Action, (April 22). Retrieved from http://spotlightonpoverty.org.
This essay, co-written by Center Senior Fellow James M. Radner and Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff, describes a new approach to reducing intergenerational poverty by mobilizing science to stimulate community-driven innovation. It draws on recent experiences in diverse settings where people are applying this approach to enhance the healthy development of young children. The essay is one in a collection that appears in the 2012 book, Investing in What Works for America’s Communities, a joint project of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Low Income Investment Fund.
Suggested citation: Radner, J.M. and Shonkoff, J.P. (2012). Mobilizing Science to Reduce Intergenerational Poverty. Eds. N.O. Andrews and D.J. Erickson, Investing in What Works for America’s Communities (pp. 338-350). San Francisco: Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Low Income Investment Fund.
Drawing on emerging science about how early adversity is "built into the body" and can impair learning, behavior, and health for a lifetime, this paper, by Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff, proposes an enhanced theory of change to promote better outcomes for vulnerable young children and to catalyze a new era of more effective early childhood policy and practice. The article was published in the Oct. 16, 2012, print supplement (Oct. 8 online ahead of print) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
Suggested citation: Shonkoff, J.P. (2012). Leveraging the Biology of Adversity to Address the Roots of Disparities in Health and Development. PNAS, 109 (Suppl. 2), 17302-17307.
New knowledge in the biological and social sciences offers a unifying framework that can inform innovative strategies to improve both child survival and early development as well as adult outcomes in health, learning, and behavior, according to this article in the February 2012 issue of Pediatrics, whose lead author is Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff. The article calls for greater synergy across policy sectors related to child health and well-being, schooling, and economic development. The co-authors are Linda Richter of the Human Sciences Research Council and the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa; Jacques van der Gaag of the Center for Universal Education, Brookings Institution, and the Amsterdam Institute for International Development, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Zulfiqar A. Bhutta of the Division of Women and Child Health, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan.
Suggested citation: Shonkoff, J.P., Richter, L., van der Gaag, J., and Bhutta, Z.A. (2012). An Integrated Scientific Framework for Child Survival and Early Childhood Development. Pediatrics, 129 (2), 460-472.
"Early Childhood Adversity, Toxic Stress, and the Role of the Pediatrician: Translating Developmental Science Into Lifelong Health"
"The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress"
Early adversity—including such experiences as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship—has long been known to increase the risks of disease and life-threatening behaviors later in life. Now, scientific advances provide solid evidence of how this occurs and underscore an urgent need to enhance existing strategies for promoting health and preventing disease across the lifespan.
In the policy statement that appears in the January 2012 issue of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls on "the entire pediatric community…to catalyze fundamental change in early childhood policy and services." It urges a "greater focus on those interventions and community investments that reduce external threats to healthy brain growth." Along with a technical report on the science of toxic stress, the policy statement marks the first time that the AAP, the premier U.S. organization of physicians who care for infants, children, adolescents and young adults, has highlighted toxic stress as a topic for urgent attention, and builds upon the cumulative work of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and the Center on the Developing Child. The policy statement and technical report were both co-authored by Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff.
Policy statement: Garner, A.S., Shonkoff, J.P., Siegel, B.S., Dobbins, M.I., Earls, M.F., McGuinn, L., … & Wood, D.L. (2012). Early Childhood Adversity, Toxic Stress, and the Role of the Pediatrician: Translating Developmental Science Into Lifelong Health. Pediatrics, 129 (1), 224-231.
Technical report: Shonkoff, J.P., Garner, A.S., Siegel, B.S., Dobbins, M.I., Earls, M.F., McGuinn, L., … & Wood, D.L. (2012). The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress. Pediatrics, 129 (1), 232-246.
In an August 2011 commentary in Science, Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff makes the case for scientists, practitioners, and policymakers to work together to design and test creative new interventions that mitigate the harmful effects of significant adversity in early childhood. As Shonkoff states in the commentary, "New strategies will be needed to strengthen the capacities of parents and providers of early care and education (beyond the provision of additional information and supports) to help young children cope with stress."
Suggested citation: Shonkoff, J.P. (2011). Protecting Brains, Not Simply Stimulating Minds. Science, 333 (6045), 982-983.
Early exposure to fear and anxiety can have lasting effects on learning and development, according to this article by Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff and Nathan A. Fox, a member of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Abuse, maltreatment, and the persistent threat of violence are examples of circumstances that can disrupt the developing architecture of the brain. In the article, Shonkoff and Fox, who is also Director of the Child Development Laboratory at the University of Maryland College Park, stress the importance of policies and programs taking children’s developmental needs into account, particularly for those living under stressful circumstances. The article appears in the June 2011 issue of Early Childhood Matters, a biannual journal published by the Bernard van Leer Foundation.
Suggested citation: Fox, N.A. and Shonkoff, J.P. (2011). How Persistent Fear and Anxiety Can Affect Young Children's Learning, Behaviour, and Health. Early Childhood Matters, (June), 8-14. A publication of the Bernard van Leer Foundation.
"Building a Foundation for Prosperity on the Science of Early Childhood Development"
Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff authored this article in the Winter 2011 issue of Pathways, a publication from the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality. In the article, Shonkoff describes how poverty harms the cognitive development of children and impairs the biological "memories" created by gene-environment interactions, and discusses what can be done to break this entrenched cycle.
Suggested citation: Shonkoff, J.P. (2011). Building a Foundation for Prosperity on the Science of Early Childhood Development. Pathways, (Winter), 10-15.
"Science Does Not Speak for Itself: Translating Child Development Research for the Public and Its Policymakers"
Science has an important role to play in advising policymakers on crafting effective responses to social problems that affect the development of children, according to this article co-authored by Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff and Susan Nall Bales, a contributing member of both the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs. The article, which appears in the January/February 2011 issue of Child Development, describes the work of a multi-year collaboration and underscores the need to view the translation of science into policy and practice as an important academic endeavor in its own right.
Suggested citation: Shonkoff, J.P. and Bales, S.N. (2011). Science Does Not Speak for Itself: Translating Child Development Research for the Public and Its Policymakers. Child Development, 82 (1), 17-32.
"Neuroscience and the Future of Early Childhood Policy: Moving from Why to What and How"
This article, by Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff and Pat Levitt, science director of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, advocates for greater synergy between neuroscience and innovation in early childhood policy to improve life outcomes for children experiencing significant adversity. As the authors state, "Neuroscience can play an important role in catalyzing the creative, new thinking needed to shape a new era of policies." The article appears in the September 9, 2010 issue of Neuron.
Suggested citation: Shonkoff, J.P. and Levitt, P. (2010). Neuroscience and the Future of Early Childhood Policy: Moving from Why to What and How. Neuron, 67 (5), 689-691.
"Building a New Biodevelopmental Framework to Guide the Future of Early Childhood Policy"
This commentary article by Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff appears in Child Development (January/February 2010), the journal of the Society for Research in Child Development, as part of a special section, "The Effects of Early Experience on Development," edited by National Scientific Council on the Developing Child member Nathan Fox and Sir Michael Rutter of Kings College, London. 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. The special section features articles by Council members Pat Levitt, Charles A. Nelson III, Tom Boyce, Megan Gunnar, and Greg Duncan.
Suggested citation: Shonkoff, J.P. (2010). Building a New Biodevelopmental Framework to Guide the Future of Early Childhood Policy. Child Development, 81 (1), 357-367.
"Mobilizing Science to Revitalize Early Childhood Policy"
This article by Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff discusses the compelling need for innovation in early childhood programs. Shonkoff writes, "It is time for policymakers to strengthen efforts to equalize opportunities for all young children by leveraging the science of child development and its underlying neurobiology to create the framework for a new era of innovation in early childhood policy and practice." It appears in the Fall 2009 edition of Issues in Science and Technology from the National Academy of Sciences.
Suggested citation: Shonkoff, J.P. (2009). Mobilizing Science to Revitalize Early Childhood Policy. Issues in Science and Technology, 26 (1). Retrieved from http://www.issues.org/26.1/shonkoff.html.
"Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, and the Childhood Roots of Health Disparities: Building a New Framework for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention"
The origins of many adult diseases can be traced to negative experiences early in life, so confronting the causes of adversity before and shortly after birth may be a promising way to improve adult health and reduce premature deaths, according to this article written by Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., W. Thomas Boyce, M.D., Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D., all members of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, and published in the June 3, 2009 issue of JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Suggested citation: Shonkoff, J.P., Boyce, W.T., McEwen, B.S. (2009). Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, and the Childhood Roots of Health Disparities: Building a New Framework for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. JAMA, 301 (21), 2252-2259.
"Economic, Neurobiological and Behavioral Perspectives on Building America’s Future Workforce"
This article by Eric I. Knudsen, James J. Heckman, Judy L. Cameron, and Jack P. Shonkoff was published on the websites of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and the Institute for the Study of Labor, and in the July-September 2006 issue of World Economics.
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, as well as 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 for improving its quality of life is to invest in the environments of disadvantaged children during the early childhood years.
Suggested citation: Knudsen, E.I., Heckman, J.J., Cameron, J.L., and Shonkoff, J.P. (2006). Economic, neurobiological, and behavioral perspectives on building America’s future workforce. PNAS, 103 (27), 10155-10162. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu.
From Neurons to Neighborhoods (2000)
Published by National Academy Press, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development presents important findings about the effects of genetics, environment, and early stress on brain architecture, the impact of politics on programs for children, and the costs and benefits of intervention. Edited by Council Chair Jack P. Shonkoff and former Council member Deborah A. Phillips, From Neurons to Neighborhoods is the product of a two-and-a-half-year project, funded by a wide array of public and private sponsors.
From Neurons to Neighborhoods examines an extensive, multi-disciplinary body of research and issues a series of challenges to decision-makers regarding the quality of child care, issues of racial and ethnic diversity, the integration of children's cognitive and emotional development, and more.
Suggested citation: National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (2000). From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development. Eds. J.P. Shonkoff and D.A. Phillips. Board on Children, Youth, and Families, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
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