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Leveraging the biology of adversity to address the roots of disparities in health and development

Jack P. Shonkoff
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 109, Supplement 2: Biological Embedding of Early Social Adversity: From Fruit Flies to Kindergartners (October 16, 2012), pp. 17302-17307
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41763528
Page Count: 6
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Leveraging the biology of adversity to address the roots of disparities in health and development
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Abstract

Extensive evidence that personal experiences and environmental exposures are embedded biologically (for better or for worse) and the cumulative knowledge of more than four decades of intervention research provide a promising opportunity to mobilize evolving scientific insights to catalyze a new era of more effective early childhood policy and practice. Drawing on emerging hypotheses about causal mechanisms that link early adversity with lifelong impairments in learning, behavior, and health, this paper proposes an enhanced theory of change to promote better outcomes for vulnerable, young children by strengthening caregiver and community capacities to reduce or mitigate the impacts of toxic stress, rather than simply providing developmental enrichment for the children and parenting education for their mothers.

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