RSC and CAHS Expert Panel on Early Childhood Development releases report outlining importance of early years

In an effort to advance public discussion on the role of early adversity in shaping adolescence and young adulthood, the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) gathered an Expert Panel on Early Childhood Development. The Panel, chaired by Prof. Michel Boivin, FRSC, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Child Development, at Université Laval, and Dr. Clyde Hertzman, FRSC, Director of the Human Early Learning Partnership and Professor in the School of Population and Public Health at The University of British Columbia, was mandated to consider a large body of scientific evidence that, if summarized for the public, would be helpful to their consideration of the issues surrounding early childhood development.

The Expert Panel is pleased to announce the release of its report, The Royal Society of Canada & The Canadian Academy of Health Sciences Expert Panel: Early Childhood Development, outlining an emerging science, which integrates genetics, epigenetics, neuroscience and developmental science, and that will transform our knowledge of early development by providing a deeper understanding of how the environment and biology jointly influence development over the life course.

The report is a consensus document based on the following two questions:

1. Are there identifiable adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect, chronic poverty, family dysfunction, chronic illness, family addiction and/or mental illness that lead to poor mental health and unhealthy behaviours, such as addiction, in the adolescent and young adult? Is there evidence that they have their effects through changes to brain structure and function? Do these factors operate together to produce their changes? Are there factors that mitigate the influence of adverse early experiences?

2. What is the evidence for the effectiveness of a variety of interventions to mitigate the adverse effects of environmental influences [including social, political and chemical/biological] on the developing child? To what extent are such interventions being implemented in Canada?

It makes a strong case, based on evidence from epidemiology, biology and intervention research, for focusing on the early years as a time to break the cycle linking early childhood experiences to mental health problems and unhealthy behaviour in adolescence and young adulthood.

For more information, and to view the Report as well as related support documents, please visit The Royal Society of Canada website.