The Science of Childhood Development

Notes from the video (Jack Shonkoff, director of Harvard Center of Childhood Development):

Early experience share our learning capacity. Brain development is built from bottom up: more complex circuits are built on top of basic circuits.

Brain is built on experience that influences its formation circuitry. Brain architecture is embedded in reciprocal experience/relationship between child and caretaker – serve and return nature.


bottom up


Brain is specialized by certain parts of the brain. If child is emotionally competent, child will be competent with intellectually learning.

Learning is impaired when dealing with stress: emotional/social development cannot be separated from cognitive development. Stable nurturing relationships builds learning circuitry. Stressful relationships destroys learning circuitry.

Long duration of stress hurts child long term physically and mentally.

3 levels of stress:
1) positive – brief increase in heart rate
2) tolerable – buffered by support
3) Toxic – prologned activation of stress response – no support – leads to learning, behavior, physical and mental health problems.

Brain architecture builds from early age and prunes during adolescents. So, it’s important to intervene early in child’s life rather than to fix it later.




The Science of Early Childhood Development