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Suggested Citation:"I Setting the Stage." Institute of Medicine. 2000. From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9824.
Page 18
Suggested Citation:"I Setting the Stage." Institute of Medicine. 2000. From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9824.
Page 19

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P19 Introduction arents have always been captivated by the rapid growth and development that characterize the earli- est years of their children’s lives. The first responsive smile, the first wobbly step, the first recognizable word—each is a significant personal achieve- ment and an occasion for family celebration. As the months turn to years, unsteady toddling across the living room turns into powerful sprinting across the soccer field, spontaneous smiles evolve into rich friendships, and single words become the building blocks of simple storytelling and, eventu- ally, complex conversations. As the infant becomes a toddler and then a preschooler and finally arrives at his or her first day in kindergarten, par- ents exclaim, “I can’t believe how quickly my baby has grown up!”—and they frequently wonder about whether they have done a good enough job. Scientists also have had a long-standing fascination with the process of early childhood development. The systematic study of infant behavior can be traced back to the early to mid-19th century, when researchers in both embryology and evolution raised fundamental questions about the origins and course of human development across the life span (Cairns, 1998; Kessen, 1965; Maccoby, 1980). By the 1920s, practice-based investigators in the professions of pediatrics, education, and social work were increasing their interaction with psychologists in the world of child study, which led to the establishment of a vibrant, multidisciplinary, scientific discipline that has continued to grow as a blend of theory, empirical investigation, and insights derived from professional experience (Richmond, 1967). One of the most abiding issues explored by developmental scientists, 1

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How we raise young children is one of today's most highly personalized and sharply politicized issues, in part because each of us can claim some level of "expertise." The debate has intensified as discoveries about our development-in the womb and in the first months and years-have reached the popular media.

How can we use our burgeoning knowledge to assure the well-being of all young children, for their own sake as well as for the sake of our nation? Drawing from new findings, this book presents important conclusions about nature-versus-nurture, the impact of being born into a working family, the effect of politics on programs for children, the costs and benefits of intervention, and other issues.

The committee issues a series of challenges to decision makers regarding the quality of child care, issues of racial and ethnic diversity, the integration of children's cognitive and emotional development, and more.

Authoritative yet accessible, From Neurons to Neighborhoods presents the evidence about "brain wiring" and how kids learn to speak, think, and regulate their behavior. It examines the effect of the climate-family, child care, community-within which the child grows.

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