As child morbidity and mortality declined during the twentieth century, a corresponding increase occurred in the relevance of child psychological well-being to public health. Evidence of this trend is the proliferation of programs intended to ameliorate conditions that place children in jeopardy of poor developmental outcome. Most recently, neurobiologic information on brain function and structure has been used to promote strategies for optimizing child development. This review will evaluate the current state of knowledge relating early child development to brain research and illustrate the potential misuse of this information. It will also suggest the following: () the extrapolation of neuroscience results to early academic and social enrichment programs obscures the magnitude of potential effects of these programs relative to the vast burden of risk imposed by poverty, and () an emphasis on intellectual functioning misses the most compelling evidence on the role of the early social environment in mediating establishment of neural networks that regulate a child's response to stress and capacity for self-control.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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