Yale researchers participate in U.N. Culture of Peace forum

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Peacebuilding and early childhood development are rarely discussed together, but research studies support the idea that they are indeed connected, and can go a long way to ending cycles of violence on a global scale.

To support this theory, four Yale Child Study Center researchers presented scientific evidence at a Sept. 9 United Nations luncheon showing that early development for children can be a transformative solution for promoting peace. They discussed the important role that parents can play starting at birth as they meet their child’s mental, emotional, nutritional, and physical needs. The President of the U.N. General Assembly convened the forum on the culture of peace, and Rima Salah, former deputy executive director of UNICEF and a member of the Yale faculty, chaired the luncheon.

Researchers at the Yale Child Study Center entered a partnership with UNICEF in 2013 to study the connections between early childhood development and peace among nations. Research has shown that when parents invest in their child’s development in the early years, there can be lifelong beneficial effects on brain development, the child’s wellbeing, and success in adulthood. It is also known that the earlier the intervention comes, the greater the long-term economic impact.

“The relationship of early childhood development to peace is a promising area for further research,” said Dr. James Leckman, the Neison Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry, Psychology & Pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine. “There is compelling evidence that if you intervene early and alter caregiving, there are lasting effects on not only the child, but the family, community and that child’s interactions with others later in life. If we can make a difference early in family life, we can break cycles of maltreatment, and increase the likelihood of peace.”

Positive early experience may provide resilience in coping with later problems. In fact, Leckman and his colleagues at Yale Child Study Center in partnership with researchers, NGOs, and practitioners around the world are actively exploring the biology of peace and the complex bio-behavioral systems that are involved in forming bonds, and their interface with stress response systems.

The Yale team at the United Nations Early Childhood Development and Peace luncheon (from left, Angelica Ponguta, James F. Leckman, and Catherine Panter-Brick). (Photo by N. Shemrah Fallon)

In his remarks, Leckman highlighted the need for the U.N. to partner with academia, civil society, and local and national governments to implement early child development programs around the world. In November, Leckman will publish a book on the topic titled “Pathways to Peace: The Transformative Power of Children and Families.”

Other notable guests included several permanent representatives from UN member states as well as high ranking officials at the U.N., and other Yale faculty and staff members, including: Donald Filer, executive director of Yale’s Office of International Affairs; Catherine Panter-Brick, professor of anthropology and health and global affairs at the Yale Jackson Institute; L. Angelica Ponguta of the Yale Child Study Center; Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, former under-secretary-general of the United Nations; Christian Salazar-Volkmann, deputy program director, UNICEF; and Siobhan Fitzpatrick, CEO of Early Years.

(Graphic via Shutterstock)

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Media Contact

Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-980-2222