Rethinking evidence-based practice and two-generation programs to create the future of early childhood policy

Shonkoff, J. P.,
Fisher, P. A.
Published: November, 2013
Journal Article
Journal Name: 
Development and Psychopathology
Volume: 25

Issue: 4, Part 2
Cambridge University Press

Research shows that children develop in an environment of relationships and that early childhood is a time of great opportunity and considerable risk. Building on these two concepts, several decades of early childhood policy and practice has generated a variety of strategies for providing enriched learning opportunities for vulnerable young children and parenting support for families experiencing significant economic and social adversity. Although positive effects have been demonstrated in multiple domains, the magnitude of their impacts has been relatively modest and variable, and limited social mobility remains a serious problem for growing numbers of children. In this paper, the authors present a framework for (a) elucidating underlying causal mechanisms that explain differences in outcomes, (b) formulating enhanced theories of change to shift developmental trajectories, (c) designing creative interventions and rethinking the concept of a two-generation strategy to produce breakthrough impacts, and (d) launching a new era of investment in young children and their families that will achieve greater reductions in intergenerational disparities in learning, behavior, and health than those produced by current best practices. Modified Author Abstract.

Correspondence to: Jack P. Shonkoff, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, 50 Church Street, Cambridge, MA 02138; E-mail:, Website:
Copyright Protected
9-5 pm Eastern