This presentation is guided by two themes, each strongly supported by carefully conducted studies on children. The first is simply that experience matters – a lot. The second is that a child’s developmental competence can be increased by providing the right experiences at the right time. Collectively, the scientific evidence is impressive that children’s well-being depends on the opportunities they have.
At one level, these themes appear self-evident. Why, then, devote a presentation to showing supportive research findings and considering their social policy implications? The answer is that there is strong controversy about whether systematic interventions can truly improve children’s outcomes. Further, the most recent findings are not necessarily well known. Even more important, certain deeply held beliefs about whether success in life is largely determined by genetic and individual factors or by environmental conditions are all too often not discussed. These beliefs, in turn, influence society’s investment in children. To achieve consensus about effective strategies to improve the future of children, such differences in beliefs need to be re-evaluated in the context of what is known from scientific inquiry.
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