Key Concepts

These key scientific concepts are the building blocks of the core story of child development. Each page within this section provides a concise overview of a different key concept and aggregates a variety of resources created by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and the Center.

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Brain Architecture

Early experiences affect the development of brain architecture, which provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health.

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Serve and Return

Serve and return interactions shape brain architecture. When an infant or young child babbles, gestures, or cries, and an adult responds appropriately with eye contact, words, or a hug, neural connections are built and strengthened in the child’s brain that support the development of communication and social skills.

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Toxic Stress

Learn about toxic stress response, how it differs from two other stress responses, positive and tolerable, and how it can be prevented or even reversed.

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Executive Function & Self-Regulation

Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.

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Science tells us that some children develop resilience, or the ability to overcome significant adversity, while others do not.

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