eas of concern, formulate conclusions and recommendations, and prepare this report. Three additional subcommittee meetings were convened to discuss pertinent literatures on neuroscience, culture and early human development, and methodological issues. Three workshops—on home visiting interventions, precursors of antisocial behavior, and the science of early childhood intervention (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000)—and five commissioned papers1 also contributed valuable scientific input to the committee's work.


One hundred years ago, the transition from the 19th to the 20th century marked a time of significant energy, creativity, and attention to the health and well-being of the nation's children. The overlapping emergence of child development as a focus within the field of psychology, pediatrics as a specialization within the practice of medicine, and child welfare as a defined domain within the purview of both the judicial system and the world of social work provides just a few examples of the extent to which the distinctive needs of children began to appear more clearly on the social and political agenda (National Research Council, 1981, 1982). In 1912, Congress established the Children's Bureau in the Department of Labor, which proceeded to conduct studies in such diverse areas as infant mortality, day care, institutional care, and mental retardation (Lesser, 1985). Ten years later, as a growing database documented the strong association between socioeconomic factors and infant and maternal deaths, public health nursing services and state child hygiene divisions were expanded under the provisions of the Sheppard-Towner Act of 1921 (Steiner, 1976).

As the crown jewel of the New Deal, the passage of the Social Security Act of 1935 formalized an expanded federal responsibility for the health and well-being of children and their mothers. Title V of the act authorized financial assistance to the states to support: (1) a broad array of maternal and child health services, including prenatal care, well-baby clinics, immunization programs, and nutrition services, with a special emphasis on underserved rural and low-income populations; (2) comprehensive services for “crippled children”; and (3) a range of child welfare services for the care and protection of homeless, dependent, and neglected youngsters (Magee


Topics were: the demographics of the birth to five age group, atypical language development, the developmental consequences of community violence, regulation of attention and executive function in young children, and the effects of prematurity on early brain development. In addition, over two dozen experts in the area of culture and early development were invited to respond to a brief questionnaire about key topics developed by the committee.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement