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The First Three Years and Beyond

The First Three Years and Beyond: Brain Development and Social Policy

Edward F. Zigler
Matia Finn-Stevenson
Nancy W. Hall
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The First Three Years and Beyond
    Book Description:

    How much do children's early experiences affect their cognitive and social development? How important is the parent's role in child development? Is it possible to ameliorate or reverse the consequences of early developmental deficits? This vitally important book draws on the latest research from the social sciences and studies on the brain to answer these questions and to explore what they mean for social policy and child and family development.The authors affirm that sound social policy providing for safe and appropriate early care, education, health care, and parent support is critical not only for the optimal development of children, but also for strengthening families, communities, and the nation as a whole. Offering a wealth of advice and recommendations, they explain:• the benefits of family leave, child care, and home visitation programs;• the damage that child abuse inflicts;• the vital importance of nutrition (and breast feeding) for pregnant women and young children;• the adverse effects that occur in misguided efforts to disseminate research too early;• and more.Written by experts in the field of early child development, care, and education, the book is essential reading for parents and policymakers alike.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12739-3
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. 1 The More Things Change: Politics and PET Scans
    (pp. 1-18)

    At the turn of the century, traditionally a time for reevaluation and setting priorities, the United States of America put children and parents in the spotlight, focusing media and policy efforts on the importance of giving families the supports they need to thrive. The public’s attention was drawn to attempts, some more successful than others, to balance the needs of children, parents, and society as a whole with supportive programs in education, health care, and child welfare. To promote the most effective use of tax dollars, the latest research from child study, pediatrics, education, law, and other disciplines was offered....

  5. 2 The Science of Brain Research
    (pp. 19-43)

    “In recent years, enormous advances have been made in the understanding of human development. We have learned that intelligence is not fixed at birth, but is largely formed by environmental influences of the early formative years. It develops rapidly at first, and then more slowly; as much of that development takes place in the first four years as in the next thirteen. We have learned further that environment has its greatest impact on the development of intelligence when that development is proceeding most rapidly—that is, in those earliest years.”

    This quotation could have been taken from a recent publication...

  6. 3 Family Leave
    (pp. 44-64)

    The transition to parenthood, no matter how joyful, is one of the most stressful experiences in the life of a family. It is only over time that a mutually satisfying parent-infant relationship begins to emerge, time that is often unavailable to the many parents who must return to the workplace too soon after the birth or adoption of a child. Some infants are placed in out-of-home care as early as two weeks after birth, and there is widespread concern that placing a child in substitute care at this age may be detrimental to both child and parents.

    Although most new...

  7. 4 Early Intervention and Child Care
    (pp. 65-95)

    The storm of controversy surrounding neuroscience and brain research focuses in particular on the efficacy of early interventions and experiences during infancy and the early years of childhood. There are two very different views: some believe that the quality of experiences early in life is a vital cornerstone for later brain development, whereas others argue that early interventions make little or no difference.

    But, as we have indicated in previous chapters, it is clear that early life experiencesdomatter in the course of a child’s healthy development. There is dynamic interaction between genetic makeup (nature) and experience (nurture); if...

  8. 5 Home Visitation and Parent Education
    (pp. 96-122)

    Today, in the early years of the twenty-first century, the lives of American citizens are cushioned by a fairly strong national economy, a thriving health care system reflecting rapid advances in the treatment and prevention of disease, and an education system in which a greater proportion of people than ever before in our nation’s history are literate, have completed high school, and have had the opportunity to participate in some form of postsecondary education. And yet, in spite of these many advantages, far too many families still suffer the effects of poverty and the lack of important support services.


  9. 6 Child Abuse and the Brain
    (pp. 123-138)

    In each chapter in this book we have pointed out that findings emerging from neurological research confirm and strengthen our belief that the experiences of early childhood have long-lasting effects and powerful implications for later development. Sadly and importantly, nowhere has this been truer than in the study of child maltreatment. Our tools for detecting abuse and studying its consequences have evolved over the decades, and will no doubt continue to do so, but the resources available to us at present demonstrate irrefutably that, directly and indirectly, abusive experiences in early childhood trigger a cascade of changes in the ways...

  10. 7 The Mozart Effect: Not Learning from History
    (pp. 139-155)

    In earlier chapters we have described how news reports on the impact of early experience on the developing brain are being used to influence social policies and interventions for young children. One compelling example is the so-called Mozart effect—the widely publicized yet empirically unsupported link between listening to Mozart piano sonatas and increases in cognitive abilities. In this chapter we will look at how the Mozart effect and other similar studies have been used in the service of misguided, quick-fix solutions to issues that are, in truth, far more complicated. Contrasted with these false solutions are the substantive contributions...

  11. 8 The Brain, Prenatal Development, and Nutrition
    (pp. 156-184)

    The brain may be the seat of human intellect and emotion, but it is also an organ. For it to grow and develop properly, the brain’s physical needs must be met. Throughout our lives, the brain grows, develops, and adapts, becoming increasingly specialized in response to various experiences.

    Still, there is no question that the first few years of life, from conception through the first three years, are a time of rapid brain development and, as such, of vital importance. During the prenatal period in particular, the brain is dependent on various needs and nutrients as well as on protection...

  12. 9 The Brain Campaign: Brain Development and the Media
    (pp. 185-198)

    In its journey from the laboratory to the daily newspaper, information about brain development research and its implications for parents, educators, and policy makers has traveled a controversial course. Like other policy-related research findings, what we know about brain development has passed through the transforming—often distorting—lens of the popular press. The outcomes of this journey have at times been beneficial for the public and at other times have done parents and child advocates a disservice. At virtually all times, however, this translation of research that is based in an esoteric and often theoretical language into words that are...

  13. 10 Epilogue: Implications of the Infant Brain Debate
    (pp. 199-212)

    The more things change, the more they remain the same. A theme we have sounded throughout this book has been the predictability of the pendulum swings affecting the field of child development and how these swings have affected how we intervene in the lives of children and families. The impact on child study of what is often called “the brain research,” however, strikes us as being somewhat different from the other paradigm shifts that have changed what we know, or believe we know, about children and families, and the most appropriate and efficacious ways of intervening positively in their lives....

  14. References
    (pp. 213-252)
  15. Index
    (pp. 253-263)