Early Relationships and Children’s Development

Early Relationships and Children's Development

Experiences in relationships early in life can resonate across the lifespan. Children do best when they have the opportunity to participate regularly in positive, supportive relationships with multiple adults across contexts. This research initiative focuses on the study of developmental processes across developmental domains in young children (ages birth to five). The overall goal of this initiative is to stimulate research aimed at promoting positive early development and reducing risks for compromised development, particularly for those children exposed to poverty and other child, family and community disadvantages or risks. This collaborative work includes a focus on processes and practices supporting caregiver-child relationships that promote well-being, healthy development, and evidence-based early interventions for at-risk children. Areas of focus for this initiative include the following: (1) identifying individual child, caregiver (e.g., parents, other family members and early care and education teachers), and contextual (e.g., cultural, community, neighborhood, early care and education program)  factors and processes linked to early development; (2) promoting practices and processes contributing to broadly-defined developmental well-being of young children; (3) developing, implementing and evaluating evidence-based early interventions for young children; (4) identifying scientific evidence in early intervention and prevention that will serve to guide externally-funded research, policy briefs, policy implementation in early childhood, and community outreach practices.

Goals and activities:
  • Coordinate an interdisciplinary group of scholars and scientists to build an early childhood initiative for research and scholarship.
  • Generate cross-disciplinary research projects and grant collaborations to advance both basic and applied research.
  • Provide a forum for faculty to share ideas and receive input from their peers on new research ideas and the design of new research proposals, including feedback on grant proposal drafts.
  • Develop a distinguished early childhood speaker series with areas of expertise in prevention, early intervention, risk, and resilience.
  • Integrate best practices and current research in community-based programs serving young children and their families.
  • Establish programs to include visiting scholars, and fund graduate and postdoctoral students in the area of early childhood development. 
Resources needed:
  • Base funding from the Frances McClelland Institute to support the brown bag seminar series and to bring speakers with early childhood expertise to campus
  • Social media and other marketing and communication resources of the Frances McClelland Institute and the Norton School to raise awareness of the initiative’s goals and activities and to attract new members
  • Funds for pilot projects
Intended Inputs:    
  • Preparation of individual and collaborative research and training grants
  • Preparation of collaborative research and applied publications
  • Building of relationships and partnerships across campus and in Southern Arizona
  • Development of a training grant, possibly in collaboration with other centers on campus and/or research initiatives
Intended Outcomes:
  • Funded research and applied projects
  • Funded training program
  • Contributions to developmental science knowledge through academic research publications and presentations
  • Contributions to the field of early childhood, including ways to build development-fostering opportunities for young children at-risk through practice and policy publications, presentations and partnerships
  • Collaborations with community organizations serving young children and families