Environmental conditions for growing healthy children
Joan L. Luby
The deleterious developmental effects of exposure to early adversity have been well documented in the scientific literature. The finding that poverty in early childhood is among the most robust predictors of a range of poor developmental outcomes has been well known for decades. More recently, evidence that early experiences of poverty and related forms of adversity negatively impact the function and structure of the developing brain have also emerged. Retrospective studies linking poor physical health outcomes to adverse childhood experiences (ACES) highlighted the more global nature of these risk factors to wellbeing and follow-up prospective studies have since confirmed these findings (Brown et al., 2009). Alternatively, it has become increasingly clear that early experiences of stimulation, nurturance, and caregiver support promote positive development outcomes with emerging evidence for tangible impacts on neurodevelopment in humans (Luby et al., 2021). However, the scientific and public health community has yet to synthesize these related bodies of data and develop a plan of action related to their over-reaching and global importance to protecting and promoting childhood health and development more generally despite numerous calls to do just that (Farah, 2018; Luby et al., 2020).
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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.