Jack P. Shonkoff is the Samuel F. and Rose B. Gingold Professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Brandeis University and former Dean of The Heller School for Social Policy and Management. For further information, see www.developingchild.net.
Promoting the healthy development of children is both an ethical imperative and a critical economic and social investment. A decent and wise society protects and nurtures all its children, particularly those disadvantaged early in life, so that they grow up to be productive adults, and because it's the right thing to do. Public policy regarding child development is currently plagued by a misguided debate -- some call it a culture war -- about whether child rearing is solely the responsibility of parents or should be shared more broadly across the community and society. Ultimately this debate is futile because science and common sense both tell us that, although parents are the most important inﬂuences on their child's development, no family raises children in isolation.