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Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda (2019)

Chapter: Part I: Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development

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Suggested Citation:"Part I: Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25201.
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Part I

Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development

The vision described in Chapter 1 rests on an understanding of what healthy mental, emotional, and behavioral (MEB) development is and how the risk and protective factors that influence it can be modified. Many aspects of healthy development have been well understood for decades, but research emerging since 2009 has significantly elaborated this picture. Chapter 2 offers a detailed look at the complex factors that affect development at multiple levels. We set the stage here with a brief picture of what constitutes healthy MEB development.

There are numerous frameworks for describing the skills, interests, habits, and values a young person must have to lead a productive life and have caring relationships with others. Researchers have identified developmental outcomes in domains that include cognitive development, psychological and behavioral health, and social and emotional competence.

Cognitive development refers to the emergence of verbal and reasoning skills that are involved in academic success, as well as the accumulation of knowledge in specific subject areas. Executive functioning skills, such as planning, impulse control, and the capacity to delay gratification, are other examples of higher-level cognitive skills. Current measures of cognitive ability are predictive of academic progress and success, which in turn is an important factor in resilience. Milestones have been established for executive function, literacy, abstract reasoning, and critical thinking for stages from infancy through adolescence.

A primary goal for psychological and behavioral health is psychological flexibility—the ability of a person to pursue her goals and values effectively by persisting or altering her behavior as the situation demands (Kashdan and Rottenberg, 2010).

While there is no precise definition of what constitutes healthy MEB development, ways to measure core features of social and emotional competence have been the focus of attention in the last few decades, as educators in particular have sought ways to assess and teach particular competencies (Stecher and Hamilton, 2018). The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional

Suggested Citation:"Part I: Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25201.
×

Learning has developed a five-component framework for understanding “students’ capacity to integrate skills, attitudes, and behaviors to deal effectively and ethically with daily tasks and challenges,” which provides a reasonable summary of the attributes of healthy development;1 see Box Part I-1.

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1 For more information, see https://casel.org/core-competencies.

Suggested Citation:"Part I: Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25201.
×

Many factors contribute to the development of healthy MEB attributes, hamper their development, or contribute to the development of risk behaviors or MEB disorders. The 2009 National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report notes that “individual competencies, family resources, school quality, and community-level characteristics” are among the influences on MEB health, and that the more negative influences a growing child experiences, the greater is the likelihood of negative outcomes (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2009, p. 16). That report also takes note of interactions between genes and the environment and points to emerging research on how genes may influence processes that may play a part in MEB disorders and help explain individual differences in their occurrences. Researchers continue to explore the components of healthy MEB development and the myriad factors that influence it.

Suggested Citation:"Part I: Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25201.
×

REFERENCES

CASEL. (2019). Core SEL competencies. 2019. Available: https://casel.org/core-competencies.

Kashdan, T.B., and Rottenberg, J. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 865–878.

National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (2009). Preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among young people: Progress and possibilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Stecher, B.M., and Hamilton, L.S. (2018). Learning how to measure social and emotional learning. Available: https://www.future-ed.org/work/toward-ameasure-of-social-and-emotional-learning.

Suggested Citation:"Part I: Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25201.
×
Page 31
Suggested Citation:"Part I: Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25201.
×
Page 32
Suggested Citation:"Part I: Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25201.
×
Page 33
Suggested Citation:"Part I: Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25201.
×
Page 34
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Healthy mental, emotional, and behavioral (MEB) development is a critical foundation for a productive adulthood. Much is known about strategies to support families and communities in strengthening the MEB development of children and youth, by promoting healthy development and also by preventing and mitigating disorder, so that young people reach adulthood ready to thrive and contribute to society. Over the last decade, a growing body of research has significantly strengthened understanding of healthy MEB development and the factors that influence it, as well as how it can be fostered. Yet, the United States has not taken full advantage of this growing knowledge base. Ten years later, the nation still is not effectively mitigating risks for poor MEB health outcomes; these risks remain prevalent, and available data show no significant reductions in their prevalence.

Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda examines the gap between current research and achievable national goals for the next ten years. This report identifies the complexities of childhood influences and highlights the need for a tailored approach when implementing new policies and practices. This report provides a framework for a cohesive, multidisciplinary national approach to improving MEB health.

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