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Building a New Biodevelopmental Framework to Guide the Future of Early Childhood Policy


  • The author acknowledges the enormous contributions of past and present members of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, including W. Thomas Boyce, Judy Cameron, Greg Duncan, Nathan Fox, William Greenough, Megan Gunnar, Eric Knudsen, Pat Levitt, Betsy Lozoff, Linda Mayes, Bruce McEwen, Charles Nelson, Deborah Phillips, and Ross Thompson; members of the National Forum on Early Childhood Program Evaluation, including Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Greg Duncan, Bernard Guyer, Katherine Magnuson, Deborah Phillips, Helen Raikes, and Hirokazu Yoshikawa; associates of the FrameWorks Institute led by Susan Nall Bales; and staff of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, led by Gillian Najarian and Al Race.

concerning this article should be addressed to Jack P. Shonkoff, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University , 50 Church Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138. Electronic mail may be sent to


Four decades of early childhood policy and program development indicate that evidence-based interventions can improve life outcomes, and dramatic advances in the biological and behavioral sciences now provide an opportunity to augment those impacts. The challenge of reducing the gap between what we know and what we do to promote the healthy development of young children is to view current best practices as a starting point and to leverage scientific concepts to inspire fresh thinking. This article offers an integrated, biodevelopmental framework to promote greater understanding of the antecedents and causal pathways that lead to disparities in health, learning, and behavior in order to inform the development of enhanced theories of change to drive innovation in policies and programs.