Working Paper Series






The Foundations of Lifelong Health Are Built in Early Childhood 

This report from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs summarizes in clear language why a vital and productive society with a prosperous and sustainable future is built on a foundation of healthy child development. Read more >>

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A Science-Based Framework for Early Childhood Policy

This ground-breaking framework for using evidence to improve outcomes in learning, behavior, and health for vulnerable children was co-authored by the members of the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs and the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Read more >>

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The Science of Early Childhood Development: Closing the Gap Between What We Know and What We Do

This publication from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child offers a concise, clear overview of the science of early childhood and brain development as it relates to policies and programs that could make a significant difference in the lives of young children and all of society. Read more >>

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Early Childhood Program Evaluations: A Decision-Maker’s Guide

This clear, concise guide from the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs helps prepare decision-makers to be better consumers of evaluation information by posing five key questions that address both the substance and the practical utility of rigorous evaluation research. Read more >>

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Working Papers



#1: Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships

New research shows the critical impact of a child's "environment of relationships" on developing brain architecture during the first months and years of life. This report summarizes the most current and reliable scientific research on the impact of relationships on all aspects of a child's development, and identifies ways to strengthen policies that affect those relationships in the early childhood years. Read more >>

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#2: Children's Emotional Development Is Built into the Architecture of Their Brains

This report presents an overview of the scientific research on how a child's capacity to regulate emotions develops in a complex interaction with his or her environment and ongoing cognitive, motor, and social development. It then discusses the implications of this research for policies affecting young children, their caregivers, and service providers. Read more >>

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#3: Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain

This report explains how significant adversity early in life can make lasting changes to a child's capacity to learn and adapt to stressful situations, how sensitive and responsive caregiving can buffer the effects of such stress, and how policies could be shaped to minimize the disruptive impacts of toxic stress on young children. Read more >>

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#4: Early Exposure to Toxic Substances Damages Brain Architecture

This report summarizes the complex scientific research on which toxins present the greatest risk at various stages of brain development, addresses popular misconceptions about the relative risk and safety of some common substances, and suggests policies that can help reduce the enormous human and economic costs of exposure to toxins during development. Read more >>

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#5: The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences Combine to Shape Brain Architecture

The foundations of brain architecture are established early in life through a continuous series of dynamic interactions in which environmental conditions and personal experiences have a significant impact on how genetic predispositions are expressed. This report summarizes in clear language the most recent scientific advances in understanding the importance of sensitive periods on brain development, and the implications of those findings for policy. Read more >>

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#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. This report explains 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. Read more >>

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#7: Workforce Development, Welfare Reform, and Child Well-Being

The first Working Paper from the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs summarizes recent evidence from a series of evaluations of family self-sufficiency programs. These studies show that policies can be successful in achieving both positive economic benefits for parents (increased employment, for example) and positive educational effects on their children.

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#8: Maternal Depression Can Undermine the Development of Young Children

The first joint Working Paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs summarizes recent evidence on the potentially far-reaching harmful effects of chronic and severe maternal depression on families and children. Read more >>

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#9: Persistent Fear and Anxiety Can Affect Young Children’s Learning and Development

Ensuring that young children have safe, secure environments in which to grow, learn, and develop healthy brains and bodies is not only good for the children themselves but also builds a strong foundation for a thriving, prosperous society. This report examines why, while some of these experiences are one-time events and others may reoccur or persist over time, all of them have the potential to affect how children learn, solve problems, and relate to others. Read more >>

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#10: Early Experiences Can Alter Gene Expression and Affect Long-Term Development

New scientific research shows that environmental influences can actually affect whether and how genes are expressed. This report summarizes in clear language why this growing scientific evidence supports the need for society to re-examine the way it thinks about the circumstances and experiences to which young children are exposed. Read more >>

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#11: Building the Brain’s “Air Traffic Control” System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function

Being able to focus, hold, and work with information in mind, filter distractions, and switch gears is like having an air traffic control system at a busy airport to manage the arrivals and departures of dozens of planes on multiple runways. In the brain, this air traffic control mechanism is called executive functioning, a group of skills that helps us to focus on multiple streams of information at the same time, and revise plans as necessary. This report explains how these lifelong skills develop, what can disrupt their development, and how supporting them pays off in school and life. Read more >>

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#12: The Science of Neglect: The Persistent Absence of Responsive Care Disrupts the Developing Brain

Extensive biological and developmental research over the past 30 years has generated substantial evidence that young children who experience severe deprivation or significant neglect—defined broadly as the ongoing disruption or significant absence of caregiver responsiveness—bear the burdens of a range of adverse consequences. This Working Paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child explains why significant deprivation is so harmful in the earliest years of life and why effective interventions are likely to pay significant dividends in better long-term outcomes in learning, health, and parenting of the next generation. Read more >>

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#13: 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.

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