Helping Children Thrive: Early Childhood Development & ACEs

Published on: September 01, 2020. Updated on: October 20, 2020.

About the Data Insights

The COVID-19 pandemic–and the associated economic downturn and schooling challenges–have worsened stress and uncertainty for families and children. A child’s earliest years lay the groundwork for lifelong health, and positive early experiences can strengthen a child’s developing biological systems, helping them to thrive and become healthy adults. Alternatively, negative or adverse experiences, such as trauma, abuse and racism, can result in toxic stress and poor health outcomes. This infographic explores the impact of early childhood development and adverse childhood experiences on health and well-being, and outlines actionable strategies to support healthy child development.

Citations and Additional Resources
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Early years sets the building blocks for healthy long-term development: Center on the Developing Child (2007). The Science of Early Childhood Development (InBrief).

Children in America who live in poverty: Children's Defense Fund. The State of America’s Children® 2020.

Income needed to meet basic needs and children in low-income households: National Center for Children in Poverty. Basic Facts about Low-Income Children, Children under 18 Years, 2016.

Adversity, ACEs, and Toxic Stress definitions: Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. ACEs and Toxic Stress: Frequently Asked Questions.

Recent study on ACEs: Merrick MT, Ford DC, Ports KA, Guinn AS. Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences From the 2011-2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 23 States. JAMA Pediatr. 2018;172(11):1038–1044. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.2537

Impact of ACEs on health: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Leveraging the Best Available Evidence, 2019.

Invest in early education: Heckman Equation, 13% ROI Research Toolkit.

Address social and economic barriers: National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2020). Connecting the Brain to the Rest of the Body: Early Childhood Development and Lifelong Health Are Deeply Intertwined Working Paper No. 15.

Build the skills parents need to succeed in parenting: Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2016). Building Core Capabilities for Life: The Science Behind the Skills Adults Need to Succeed in Parenting and in the Workplace.

Build resilience: Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, Resilience.


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