At a time when inequalities in school achievement, workforce skills, and lifelong health status compromise a nation’s competitiveness in a global economy, the need for new ideas to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty around the world is critical. Science tells us that the foundations for successful adulthood are established early in life. The substantial gap between what we know about the roots of growing disparities in health, learning, and behavior and what we are doing to promote the well-being of vulnerable children internationally provides a compelling agenda for strengthening policies and investments that focus on the earliest years of life.

Over the past decade, the world’s policymakers have increased their attention to early childhood health and development, which opens new prospects for advancing a comprehensive early childhood agenda. Meanwhile, a growing, interdisciplinary body of scientific research is already starting to transform the health and well-being of children in the highest-income countries and offers promising opportunity for other nations. Much work needs to be done, however, to successfully raise the commitment to an integrated approach to child development that would enable such breakthroughs to cross economic and national borders. Read more about the current context >>

Global Children’s Initiative

The Global Children’s Initiative is the primary practical manifestation of the Center’s global child development agenda. The initiative draws not only on the expertise of individuals whose specialties span the biological and social sciences but also on the wisdom and experience of those who are addressing the needs of vulnerable children “on the ground.” Read more >>


Applying the Science of Early Childhood in Brazil

As part of its Global Children’s Initiative, the Center is launching its first major programmatic effort outside the United States. In collaboration with local experts, the Center aims to use the science of child health and development to guide stronger policies and larger investments to benefit young children and their families in Brazil.



Zambian Early Childhood Development Project

While a large number of studies have investigated the impact of early childhood experiences on children’s developmental, health, and educational outcomes in developed countries, relatively little evidence is available on early childhood development in sub-Saharan Africa. To address this knowledge gap, the Zambian Ministry of Education, the Examination Council of Zambia, UNICEF, the University of Zambia, and the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University launched the Zambian Early Childhood Development Project (ZECDP) in 2009, a collaborative effort to measure the effects of an ongoing anti-malaria initiative on children’s development in Zambia.



Un Buen Comienzo

Un Buen Comienzo (UBC), "A Good Start," is a collaborative project in Santiago, Chile, to improve the quality of early childhood education through teacher professional development. UBC, which has received some funding from the Center, is an example of the kind of integrated child development work that is central to the Center's mission.



Theresa Betancourt Faculty Spotlight

Faculty Spotlight: Theresa Betancourt

Studying the Effects of Global Adversity, Two Generations at
a Time

When humanitarian crises hit around the world, nongovernmental organizations rush into the fray, intensively focused on urgent survival needs, not necessarily on longer-term impacts that may take an even greater toll on the country and its citizens. Theresa Betancourt, a Center-affiliated faculty member who studies children in adversity and has worked alongside NGOs, wants to help them see that farther horizon: Combining short-term survival efforts with attention to children’s developmental needs only magnifies the long-range benefits for individuals and societies.

Read more >> 


New Scientific Knowledge Can Inform Innovative Global Strategies

PediatricsInternational discussions of child-related policies and practices often fail to make the vital connection between child survival, one of the developing world’s most pressing issues, and child development, an equally important prerequisite for productive and harmonious societies. However, an article in the February issue of Pediatrics co-authored by Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff posits that 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. The article also calls for greater synergy across policy sectors related to child health and well-being, schooling, and economic development.

Read or download the full article on the Pediatrics
web site >>


Videos in Spanish and Portuguese

Several of the Center's videos have been translated into Spanish and Portuguese. The translations of the Spanish videos were made possible with major support from the World Bank, while the videos available in Portuguese where translated and adapted for a Brazilian audience as part of the Global Children's Initiative's major programmatic effort in Brazil

View all videos in Spanish and Portuguese >>