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What is early childhood development (ECD) and how does it interrelate with peace building?

To understand peace building in this context, it is important to first understand formative childhood or ‘early childhood development’ (ECD), a term that refers to a multifaceted concept that encompasses both the child and the child’s environment (context). At the level of the child, it includes the phases of development from the prenatal period through the transition to school, which is complete by age 8 or 9. Holistic development during this period occurs across several domains: physical health and motor development; cognitive skills; social and emotional functioning; and competencies in language and literacy, ethical and spiritual development, sense of group membership, and identity within families, communities, cultures, and nation states.

But, children’s early development does not take place in a vacuum; context is an important determinant of the achievement of developmental potential. Within the first few years of life, children make rapid strides in all aspects of development through interaction with their environment. Theoretical models and practice frameworks posit that a host of factors influence early human development, including supportive, nurturing, stimulating environments; contexts; and conditions. Home, community and learning contexts are among the most important of such influences on young children’s development.

A primary point of interest in neuroscience research is how early life experiences—especially the initial bonds formed between infants and their caregivers—can set the stage, from a neurobiological perspective, for future interactions. This is not limited to interactions with peers, romantic partners, children and grandchildren, but also extends to exchanges with members of one’s in-group and with those considered to be out-group members. How do early bonds influence our physiology in a way that will inform peace building in later life? And, more importantly, how can science guide programs and agendas for building peace through its impact on early life experiences?

The Human Biological Evidence of Peace

Epigenetic, neurobiological and clinical evidence supporting the well-being of children and families as an agent of change for sustainable peace

The Ecology of Peace

A conceptual framework that provides a model for exploring the multiple relationships between early childhood development and peace building

Pathways to Peace

The transformative power of children and families

"Give the world a new generation"

Source: D 30464444 © Rfischia | Dreamstime

Presentations by world experts from the fields of human biological science, practice, violence prevention, and media who were featured at the global launch of the Early Childhood Peace Consortium at UNICEF NY  in September 2013