Editorial: The Primacy of parenting
Joan L. Luby
The contention that supportive and sensitive parenting is important to healthy emotional and behavioral development of children is a widely accepted maxim. There is also increasing consensus among developmentalists about the nature of optimal parenting practices. However, what remains under appreciated is just how powerful an influence these positive elements of caregiving have in shaping, driving, and fortifying a healthy developmental trajectory across multiple domains of function. The notion that positive caregiving is an ‘essential ingredient’ necessary for healthy human development has become increasingly evident. Importantly, both animal and human data have established that there are early sensitive periods, representing windows of opportunity, during which optimal caregiving has its most powerful effects (Curley & Champagne, Frontiers in neuroendocrinology, 40, 52, 2016; Nelson et al., Science, 318, 1937, 2007). These points are underscored by papers in this volume showing the sustained effects of early parenting interventions focused on enhancing attachment relationship (Zajac, Raby, & Dozier, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57, 1099, 2019). Using another parenting program, Brody, Yu, Miller, and Chen (Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2019) report longitudinal data showing mechanistic pathways by which the effects of enhanced caregiving impact later adaptive functioning in a high risk sample. These findings suggest that early parenting interventions may have uniquely positive and enduring effects highlighting their unique importance as a focus for developmental enhancement.
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Professor Joan Luby is the Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Child Psychiatry and Director of the Early Emotional Development Program at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA. She is also Co-PI of the NIMH Post-doctoral training program in developmental affective neuroscience.