Why the early years
Scientists and researchers now know that our early experiences —
positive and negative — shape the architecture of the developing
brain and lay the foundation for lifelong mental and physical health.
The structure of our brains is built in stages over the course of our
lives, but the foundation is laid in our earliest years. In fact, our
brains are not so different from any other building structure, where
the foundation is poured first and secures the base upon which all
other frameworks sit.
Genetics play a role in brain development, but a growing body of research suggests that our early life experiences are also critical.
We now know that exposure to early adversity–also called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)–can lead to toxic stress responses that have a detrimental effect on a child’s brain, hormonal and immune system development.
This can lead to behaviour and learning difficulties, and have a lifelong impact on a child’s physical and mental health.
However, the evidence also tells us that the existence of supportive adult
relationships in a child’s life, particularly between child and caregiver, serve both
a protective and growth function.
Positive child-caregiver interactions provide the building blocks for strong
brains, and can also mitigate the effects of exposure to early adversity. It is never
too late to make a difference in a young person’s life, but early intervention can
play a critical role in strengthening child-caregiver bonds and preventing
unmitigated exposure to toxic stress, building resilient brains and bodies for the future.