The Transformative Power of Children and Families
Can more peaceful childhoods promote a culture of peace? Increasing evidence from a broad range of disciplines shows that how we raise our children affects the propensity for conflict and the potential for peace within a given community. Experts from a range of disciplines convened in Frankfurt, Germany to examine the biological and social underpinnings of child development and the importance of strengthening families to build harmonious and equitable relations across generations. They explored the relevance to the pursuit of peace in the world, highlighted directions for future research, and proposed novel approaches to translate knowledge into concrete action. Their collaborative outcome was the release of the first-of-its kind volume, Pathways to Peace: The Transformative Power of Children and Families, published by MIT Press in 2014, and co-edited by Drs. James F. Leckman, Catherine Panter-Brick and Rima Salah of Yale University.
The Ernst Strüngmann Forum
In 2013, the Ernst Strüngmann Forum convened a think tank to review a premise that has fascinating implications for research, practice, and policy: Do the ways we raise children hold promise for promoting peace in the world? The idea behind this Forum began to form in the spring of 2010, when Dr. James Leckman of Yale University met with the Mother Child Education Foundation, known as AÇEV (Anne Çocuk Eğitim Vakfı), in Istanbul, Turkey. AÇEV wished to learn more about the biobehavioral systems involved in the formation of interpersonal bonds between parents and their children, and to receive a candid appraisal of their concept paper, “Building a Generation of Reconciliation: The Role of Early Childhood Development in Peace Building.”
The Forum was founded on the tenets of scientific independence and the inquisitive nature of the human mind. The overarching goal of the Forum was not necessarily to reach a consensus but rather to identify “gaps” in knowledge and pose key questions. Once the gaps were established, novel ways to fill them were sought, leading to new insights and ideas to aid future research efforts. The Forum brought together 41 scientists from diverse academic backgrounds (basic sciences, early childhood development, cross-cultural psychology, interfaith dialogue, and peace building), representing 15 countries (Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Israel and Palestine, Kenya, the Netherlands, Nigeria, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States).
The contributors to Pathways to Peace describe findings from research in biology, neuroscience, evolution, genetics, psychology, social sciences, and policy. They report empirical evidence on children living in violent conditions, resilience in youth, and successful interventions. Their contributions show that the creation of sustainable partnerships with government agencies, community leaders, policy makers, funders, and service providers is a key ingredient for success. Taken together, they suggest possible novel approaches to translate knowledge into concrete and meaningful action.