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From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development
problems and criminality can be traced back to the preschool years provides a tantalizing opportunity for preventive interventions. On the other hand, many children who display early warning signs of high levels of peer aggression and hostility, persistent noncompliance, and callousness to other's distress, for example, become perfectly normal school-age children who go on to productive adult lives. Shifting from group-level associations to individual prediction, in other words, is a very risky business.
It is a difficult task to understand what mix of conditions contributes to stabilizing early conduct disorders for which children. Judging from what is known about other problematic conditions early in life, the answer is likely to involve the juxtaposition of the child's inherited predispositions, early peer encounters, performance in school, family environment and parental monitoring, neighborhood environment, and association with productive or deviant peer groups over time. Without good prediction, the appropriate perspective to adopt for early intervention may be one of fostering prosocial behavior for all children rather than trying to prevent delinquency for a few. Along these lines, approaches that involve all children in a setting, work simultaneously on eliminating disruptive child behaviors and developing prosocial behaviors, and give serious attention to creating early environments that reduce barriers to positive peer interactions will avoid stigmatizing some children, ignoring others who might also be in trouble, and have reasonably good odds of success.