The Impact of Early Experience on Childhood Brain Development

Research shows that early exposure to circumstances that produce persistent stress can have lifelong consequences on learning, behavior and health by perturbing infant brain development. More specifically, chronic stress can significantly diminish children’s ability to learn and to engage in typical social interactions across their lifespan. Thus, the fact that one in five children lives in poverty and nearly one in every 40 infants experiences some form of abuse or neglect alerts us to the catastrophic and unnecessary level of wasted human capital that we face as a nation. On April 13, the Center on Children and Families and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford University sponsored an event that focused on the science of early brain development and the role that chronic stress early in life plays in the arrested development of children raised in risky situations. The policy implications of these and similar findings were discussed.

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Publication Date: 
May, 2010