The environmental influence on a child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development is undeniable. Unfortunately, almost half of our world’s children are at risk of not reaching their full developmental potential. The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but little is known about the long-term adverse impact this may have on the world’s most vulnerable children currently living in countries with ongoing threats of violence, displacement, and conflict. Unfortunately, much of these dangers have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Peacebuilding initiatives, particularly during the early childhood years, are more important than ever as the international community prepares to navigate a post-pandemic world.
Special journal issue "Love and Fear"
When looking for contributors to a special issue tackling the concepts of Love and Fear in the medical journal Comprehensive Psychoneuroendocrinology, Sue Carter, Distinguished University Scientist and Rudy Professor Emerita of Biology at Indiana University, and an expert in the endocrinology of love, reached out to Dr. James F. Leckman, Neison Harris Professor in the Yale Child Study Center and Professor of Pediatrics, to provide insight into the importance of early childhood peacebuilding initiatives that target young children and their families.
Love and peace across generations: Biobehavioral systems and global partnerships
Dr. Leckman assembled a team of experts and practitioners in the field of early childhood development (ECD) and peacebuilding around the globe including notable colleagues from Yale University and the Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC) to partner with for this special journal issue. Yale contributors consist of Dr. James F. Leckman, Catherine Panter-Brick, Ph.D., Angelica Ponguta, Ph.D., M.P.H., Rima Salah, Ph.D., Franz J. Hartl, J.D., Michael F. McCarthy, M.A., and N. Shemrah Fallon. This international collaboration resulted in the seminal paper Love and Peace Across Generations: Biobehavioral Systems and Global Partnerships.
Linking early childhood development with neuroscience and peacebuilding
The paper emphasizes the importance of the early childhood years on a person’s lifelong development, a focus that was widely championed by Yale Professor Emeritus of Psychology, the late Edward Zigler, widely known as the “founding father” of Head Start who was a pioneer in the field of early childhood development, and a champion for the rights of children. The paper outlines in detail, the link between neuroscience and peacebuilding, particularly the influence that neuropeptides have in influencing social interactions, attachment, love, fear, trauma, compassion, and empathy. The paper also specifies the role of parents in providing nurturing environments. Furthermore, the authors highlight successful early childhood development initiatives that have been implemented in conflict-affected countries as well as argue that it is imperative for our next generation of youth to play an active and leading role in peacebuilding initiatives.
Key action points
The authors call on the international community to address four key action points that support young children and their families:
- expand political will and funding through advancement of the early childhood-related Sustainable Development Goals,
- create a policy environment that supports nurturing care,
- build capacity to promote ECD through multi-sectoral coordination, and
- ensure accountability for ECD services, increase research, and foster global and regional leadership and action.
The open access journal article is available to the public and can be downloaded along with the complete special journal issue.