Context Matters in Child and Family Policy


  • The author acknowledges the support of K05DA15226 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

concerning this article should be addressed to Kenneth A. Dodge, Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708. Electronic mail may be sent to


The traditional model of translation from basic laboratory science to efficacy trials to effectiveness trials to community dissemination has flaws that arise from false assumptions that context changes little or matters little. One of the most important findings in developmental science is that context matters, but this fact is not sufficiently taken into account in many translation efforts. Studies reported in this special issue highlight both the potential of systematic interventions in parenting, peer relations, and social-cognitive skills training, and the problems that will be encountered in trying to bring these interventions to a community context. It is advocated that developmental scientists start from within the community context itself so that translation to policy is only a small step. It is also advocated that this research be conducted through rigorous community randomized controlled trials.