Media Coverage

The enormous cost of toxic stress: Repairing damage to refugee and separated children

“When traumatic experiences are imposed on young children, the impact on their bodies and brains can last a lifetime, even if those children cannot consciously remember the events that terrified them,” writes Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, who submitted this statement on behalf of Center Director Dr. Jack Shonkoff and others.


The urban design project sneaking puzzles and hopscotch into abandoned lots

Story about Frontiers of Innovation project Urban Thinkscape


The Diversity of Play

Former Richmond Fellow Lynneth Solis explores the impact play has on the cognitive development of children in Colombia.


How severe, ongoing stress can affect a child’s brain

This article discusses the impact of toxic stress on early childhood development, and what some physicians, early-care providers, and community members are doing to identify and provide services to affected children and families.


How poverty affects the brain

Using brain imaging, Council Member Charles Nelson studies the impacts of poverty and childhood adversity on children’s development in Bangladesh.


When is stress good for you?

Council Member Bruce McEwen differentiates between good stress, tolerable stress, and toxic stress.


Resilience: A skill your child really needs to learn (and what you can do to help)

In this blog post, Dr. Claire McCarthy shares four factors that help children develop resilience: supportive adult-child relationships, a sense of self-efficacy and perceived control, strong adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities, and being able to mobilize sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions.


A New Understanding of the Childhood Brain

In this episode of a new series of videos from The Atlantic, the impact of early trauma on brain development is explored.


The Decade of the Brain

A new series of videos from The Atlantic explores early childhood development by looking at the emergence of early childhood development research and programs.


Does Poverty Change the Way We Think?

Rich or poor, quality caregiving may be the key to a child’s healthy brain development according to this BBC podcast featuring National Scientific Council on the Developing Child member Charles Nelson.


First Impressions: A virtual experience of the first year of life

Using virtual reality (VR) technology, the Guardian has created “First Impressions,” which enables viewers to explore how a baby sees the world during the first six months of life. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child member Charles Nelson guides viewers through the 360-degree VR experience, explaining the impact of extreme adversity such as neglect […]


Interview with Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D.

During a recent visit to Western Australia, Center Director Jack Shonkoff spoke with ABC News about the critical importance of the early years.


Fewer homeless veterans. More homeless children in state.

Although a 2006 10-year plan to eliminate homelessness in Michigan has had success in reducing the number of homeless veterans and chronically homeless individuals, the news is not as good for children and families–and may have actually grown worse. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child member Megan Gunnar explains the impact that the ongoing […]


Expensive Problems: Researchers Say ‘High Cost’ Adults Can Be Predicted At Age 3

This blog post and companion radio show explore a new study that suggests that brain health before age 3 may predict a person’s cost to society around age 40. These costs included health expenses, such as hospital stays and drug prescriptions, as well as welfare benefits, insurance claims, and criminal court and prison costs. Center […]


Special Report "Our Children: Searching for Solutions"

The Detroit Free Press presents a series of stories about growing up in the Motor City and the toll that poverty and violence take on children. The stories examine programs both around the country and in Detroit that might offer solutions to help combat toxic stress. The Center’s materials are quoted throughout, as is a […]


Learning Through Play: Education does not stop when recess begins

School recess is making something of a comeback, due in part to stronger science backing the importance of play to children’s learning and development. Center Director Jack Shonkoff discusses the cognitive, physical, mental, and social-emotional benefits of play and how “recess” is inaptly named because it’s an important component of school, not a distraction from […]


How Poverty Affects the Brain

Growing research shows that poverty and the conditions that often accompany it—violence, excessive noise, chaos at home, pollution, malnutrition, abuse and parents without jobs—can affect the interactions, formation, and pruning of connections in the young brain. Center Director Jack Shonkoff was interviewed for this story and shared insight on how we can use this new […]


Pediatricians take on new role: Fighting the bigotry and violence that hurts kids

This story was in response to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recent recommendations for pediatricians to confront violence in children’s lives. The AAP is working to identify new approaches to the problem, including education, advocacy, and changes in clinical practice. Center Director Jack Shonkoff was interviewed for the story and shared insight on how toxic […]


Can poverty be passed down? A nonprofit tries to break the cycle

EMPath’s Intergenerational Mobility Project, a member of the Frontiers of Innovation community, coaches families to equip parents with the skills to navigate their way out of poverty and to help them show their children the way out, too. The story highlights a new report from EMPath about the project and quotes Center Director Jack Shonkoff, […]


The Limits of ‘Grit’

Examining Angela Duckworth’s book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” and the resulting popular interest in grit as a key to success, this piece calls out the significant limitations of this focus: that grit may be out of reach for some kids who have grown up in poverty or other stressful conditions without the […]


Family Experience with Toxic Stress

As part of the Healthy People, Healthy Places – Healthy Beginnings series, Be Well explores the topic of toxic stress and its impact on one Ohio family. Center affiliated faculty member and National Scientific Council on the Developing Child member Charles Nelson is interviewed for the story to help explain what toxic stress is and […]


The Complex Lives of Babies

Highlighting ideas and themes from the recently released documentary, “The Beginning of Life,” this article emphasizes the impact that environment and relationships in the first few years of a child’s life have on physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. The story includes quotes from Center Director Jack Shonkoff and affiliated faculty member and National Scientific […]


Stress Fractures: A developing brain exposed to a stressful environment can cause a lifetime of pain

This story on toxic stress highlights several new programs aimed at preventing and reducing toxic stress for children, including the Best Start for Kids program in King County, Washington State, which is focusing its support on pregnant mothers, educating new families, and caring for children between infancy and five years of age. National Scientific Council […]


Bringing Brain Science to Early Childhood

In this story that highlights the publication of the Center’s newest report, Center Director Jack Shonkoff explains the call for a science-based R&D platform in the early childhood field and the Center’s vision for making breakthrough impacts for children and families, especially those facing adversity.


The brain science behind Britain’s new parenting classes

Examining British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent announcement about the UK’s new policy on parenting classes, the Washington Post spoke with Center Director Jack Shonkoff about the neuroscience cited in the Prime Minister’s speech and how meeting parents’ needs results in meeting children’s needs.


Grandmother, child rise from trauma with help from Childhaven

This story focuses on the work of Childhaven, a therapeutic child care nonprofit in Washington State that is also a member of the Frontiers of Innovation community through the Washington Cluster. Having worked directly with the organization, Director of Innovation Strategies Becky Jacques shares her thoughts about Childhaven’s ongoing innovation and learning.


#OpportunityRedefined: Interview with Jack P. Shonkoff, Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

In this installment of New Profit’s #OpportunityRedefined series, Center Director Jack Shonkoff talks about what’s needed to achieve breakthrough social change—new strategies that produce bigger impacts and a better understanding of why interventions work – or don’t work – for whom and in what contexts.


Why Netflix’s Parental Leave Policy is Good For Babies

Video-streaming company Netflix announced this week that it will offer its employees a year of maternity and paternity leave during the first year after their child’s birth or adoption. Center Director Jack Shonkoff talks with TIME about what this may mean for children, particularly the effects of early child-parent bonds on cognitive, emotional, and social […]


Reinforcing best practices for parents

Renee Van Norman, Ph.D., director of the Pearl Buck Preschool in Oregon, shares the preschool’s experience with the Filming Interactions to Nurture (FIND) video coaching program for parents, which focuses on the concept of “serve and return,” developed by the Center. Norman explains the program’s practical approach and how it uniquely emphasizes parents’ strengths and […]


The Diaper Dilemma

Not being able to afford a basic baby necessity like diapers can hurt mothers’ mental health and their ability to parent. This story highlights the work of the New Haven MOMS Partnership, a support network for new mothers and their children and a Frontiers of Innovation member, to address this problem.


Can science save abused, neglected kids – and money, too?

Washington state is increasingly using current science to guide its policies and services for children and families. This story features the Center’s Frontiers of Innovation initiative, which is led in Washington by the Department of Early Learning and combines the science of brain development with advances in the social and behavioral sciences to design and […]


What Poverty Does to the Young Brain

Poverty can create conditions of toxic stress, which weakens the architecture of the developing brain. This piece features the work of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and quotes its science director, Pat Levitt.


The Brain and Biology of Parenting

Charlie Rose hosts a round-table discussion about the brain and the biology of parenting. The distinguished panel of researchers includes Center-affiliated faculty member Charles A. Nelson III, who explains how serve and return interaction between caregivers and children plays a fundamental role in building the brain.


A Single Denver Mom Learns to Manage Toxic Stress and Tighten Family Bonds

This story profiles a Denver, Colorado-based implementation of the FIND project, which uses a video coaching technique to strengthen serve and return interactions between parents and children. FIND was developed by researchers at the University of Oregon and the Oregon Social Learning Center who are members of the Frontiers of Innovation network.


Grantee Spotlight: Center on the Developing Child

This grantee spotlight from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation provides a brief overview of the Center’s work, with a focus on our science translation and communication efforts.


The Science of Suicide: Researchers Work To Determine Who’s Most At Risk

This piece profiles the work of Center-affiliated faculty member Matthew K. Nock, whose lab is developing a test to better predict suicide risk, with a particular focus on adolescents.


Take the ACE Quiz – And Learn What It Does and Doesn’t Mean

An ACE score is a tally of different types of abuse, neglect, and other adverse childhood experiences. A higher score indicates a higher risk for health problems later in life. This NPR story helps people evaluate their ACE score, and quotes Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff, who notes that building resilience can help people do […]


Can Family Secrets Make You Sick?

Childhood abuse and neglect can have lasting effects on adult health and executive function. This article from NPR surveys decades of work to determine “what exactly adverse childhood experiences do to the body,” and quotes National Scientific Council on the Developing Child member Megan R. Gunnar.


Toxic stress in babies and children causes lifelong problems

As part of its “Healthy States” initiative, Minnesota Public Radio presents this story on the science of toxic stress and the role early brain development plays in supporting lifelong health. The program begins with a keynote by National Scientific Council on the Developing Child member Megan Gunnar, who emphasizes “the importance of healthy child development […]


Starting Early

This four-part series from journalist Arielle Levin Becker takes an in-depth look at the effects of severe childhood adversity on mental and physical health. Together, the articles detail how toxic stress impacts the body, the protective effects of a secure relationship with a caregiver, and ways to identify and prevent problems that threaten child well-being. […]


The First Year

This article discusses scientific research focused on how supportive relationships with adults shape early brain development. One highlighted study, the Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP), has examined how early childhood neglect impacts brain development as well as how appropriate nurturing can buffer the effects of early deprivation. BEIP was launched by Center-affiliated faculty member Charles […]


Life After Stress: The Biology Of Trauma And Resilience

In this story, reporter Karen Brown profiles ongoing research efforts to understand how trauma affects lifelong mental and physical health. Brown speaks with Center-affiliated faculty member Charles A. Nelson III, who explains how brain development depends on the interaction between genes and experience, noting that “the brain doesn’t know how to wire itself.”


Common Core Reading: The Struggle Over Struggle

As part of its series on reading in the Common Core era, NPR explores how complex reading material impacts the success with which children learn to read. The piece quotes Center-affiliated faculty member Catherine Snow, an expert on language and literacy development in children.


Under the Hood of the Adolescent Brain

Adolescence is a crucial period in the development of lifelong mental health, says Center-affiliated faculty member Ronald Kessler. In his keynote at the annual Harvard Catalyst symposium on brain development in the second decade of life, Kessler discussed how the teenage years can begin a “cascade of triggers and problems” that lasts into adulthood. Kessler […]


The Way to Beat Poverty

In this column, authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn emphasize the importance of early intervention in breaking the cycle of poverty. Citing the work of Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff, they explain how adverse experiences associated with poverty can compromise brain development and undermine the foundations for healthy adult life. Such toxic stress can fuel […]


An Experiment in Zero Parenting

This article by Eliot Marshall highlights the work of the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, which studies how early childhood neglect affects brain development. The project was launched by Center-affiliated faculty member Charles A. Nelson III and National Scientific Council on the Developing Child member Nathan Fox. That work, in Romanian orphanages, has shown that the […]


How Childhood Neglect Harms the Brain

As part of its neuroscience-focused series “Brain Matters,” public radio station WBUR explores the science behind the effects of abuse and neglect on the developing brain. The story features interviews with Center-affiliated faculty member Charles A. Nelson III and Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff. Nelson speaks about his work on how profound early deprivation impairs […]


Inequality Begins at Birth

This post by Jeff Madrick discusses how early childhood adversities, including poverty, can create a toxic stress response in the body that can compromise the architecture of the developing brain. Interventions and programs that address the stressors of poverty are vital to improving health and educational outcomes for many children. Madrick notes, “What is concerning, […]


How Childhood Neglect and Abuse Impacts the Brain

Neglect, abuse, and other forms of maltreatment can produce lifelong changes in brain architecture. However, supportive, responsive relationships with adults can help prevent or mitigate such damaging effects. In this story, WBUR’s “Radio Boston” speaks with Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff about how serve and return interactions promote healthy brain development, and why it’s time […]


How Supportive Parenting Protects the Brain

This article discusses the effects of toxic stress on lifelong health and explains how supportive, responsive caregiving can help improve outcomes for children living in poverty or other adverse circumstances. The article quotes Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff.


Hospital Program Coaches Parents To Help Alleviate ‘Toxic Stress’ in Babies and Toddlers

At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, an early childhood mental health program is working with parents to help them understand and address toxic stress in their children. This article quotes Center on the Developing Child Senior Fellow Pat Levitt on how serve and return interactions build children’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Also included are excerpts […]


A Call for Two-Generation Strategies to Achieve ‘Breakthrough’ Impacts

Prevention Action, an online outlet that covers international efforts to improve child outcomes, reports on a recent publication by Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff and Center Senior Fellow Philip A. Fisher. Calling for the development of new early childhood intervention strategies based on science-driven innovation, Shonkoff and Fisher assert that interventions that strengthen the capabilities of […]


Nurtury Learning Lab Designed to Foster Opportunity

The Nurtury Learning Lab in Boston is a collaboration between the Boston Housing Authority and Nurtury, a longstanding early care and education agency. This article quotes Nurtury CEO Wayne Ysaguirre, who is a member of the Center’s Frontiers of Innovation initiative. By working with organizations including the Center on the Developing Child, the Learning Lab […]


Can Brain Science Help Lift People Out Of Poverty?

Under the leadership of Elisabeth (Beth) Babcock, a member of the Center’s Frontiers of Innovation initiative, the Boston-based nonprofit Crittenton Women’s Union (CWU) is using brain science to help families break the cycle of poverty. Research indicates that the adverse experiences associated with poverty can impair vital executive function skills. CWU is applying the science through […]


Teaching Through Trauma

In this two-part series, public radio station KPCC reports on Los Angeles public schools that are working to address the impact of toxic stress on learning. Part one features ongoing efforts at the Camino Nuevo charter school to address poverty’s effects on the brain using targeted interventions that support both parents and children. Part two […]


Spare the Rod – The Biology of Poverty and Violence

This article from IRIN, the international humanitarian news service, discusses global research and policy related to toxic stress and its implications for lifelong health. The article quotes Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff.


Boys Report PTSD When Moved Out Of Poverty

This National Public Radio story features Center-affiliated faculty member Ronald Kessler, the lead author of a Journal of the American Medical Association study that analyzed a federal program to move families from public housing into more affluent areas. Kessler explains that while girls thrived under the program, boys developed conduct and mental health problems, possibly […]


Soldiers Enter Military With Higher Rates of Mental Illness

Soldiers entering the U.S. Army have higher rates of mental illness than the general public, according to a study authored by Center-affiliated faculty member Ronald Kessler and other researchers. Because soldiers may develop additional conditions during their service, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, Kessler says they are at increased risk for suicide. Kessler is the […]


Suicidal Tendencies Are Evident Before Deployment, Study Finds

A study by academic, government, and military researchers, including Center-affiliated faculty member Matthew K. Nock, addresses the troubling suicide rate among members of the U.S. Army. The findings reveal that enlisted men and women exhibit more impulsive anger than their civilian counterparts, increasing the likelihood that soldiers will act on suicidal urges. Nock is a […]


Orphans’ Lonely Beginnings Reveal How Parents Shape a Child’s Brain

This National Public Radio story explores the effects of neglect on the developing brains of children living in Romanian orphanages. It highlights the research of Center-affiliated faculty member Charles A. Nelson III, whose studies of Romanian orphans examine how brain wiring goes awry when children are deprived of responsive caregiving.


Bringing Home the Plight of Abandoned Children

Children who don’t receive supportive early care lag behind their peers socially, physically, and intellectually, says Center-affiliated faculty member Charles A. Nelson III. In this Q&A interview with Karen Weintraub, Nelson discusses the new book he has co-authored about children living in Romanian orphanages, Romania’s Abandoned Children: Deprivation, Brain Development, and the Struggle for Recovery […]


The New Science Behind Early Education

In this interview, Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff speaks with Innovation Hub’s Kara Miller about why the early stages of development matter for children’s future health and educational success. Calling for innovations in policy and practice to help close the learning (and health) gap, Shonkoff highlights the need to build the capabilities of children’s adult […]


Want Perfect Pitch? You Might Be Able To Pop A Pill For That

Research by Center-affiliated faculty member Takao Hensch suggests that a drug can restore brain plasticity to a juvenile state, allowing adults to learn perfect pitch. NPR’s Linda Wertheimer asks Hensch, who serves on the Center’s steering committee, about the implications of reopening this particular “critical period” of development. Hensch is a professor of molecular and […]


Protecting Children From Toxic Stress

In the Fixes column on the Times web site, David Bornstein explores toxic stress, its implications for lifelong heath, and what can be done to prevent it, including by supporting parents in how to respond appropriately to their children’s cues and needs. The article quotes Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff.


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