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Children's Emotional Development is Built Into the Architecture of Their Brains

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child
Year Published: 2004
Paper/Research Report
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child
Working Paper # 2
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child

The core features of emotional development include the ability to identify and understand one's own feelings, to accurately read and comprehend emotional states in others, to manage strong emotions and their expression in a constructive manner, to regulate one's own behavior, to develop empathy for others, and to establish and sustain relationships. Emotional development is actually built into the architecture of young children's brains in response to their individual personal experiences and the influences of the environments in which they live. Stated simply, as young children develop, their early emotional experiences literally become embedded in the architecture of their brains. In this paper, the authors first review what is known about children' emotional development, differentiating scientific fact from popularly accepted fiction. Then, they present examples illustrating the gap between what we "know" about healthy emotional development and the management of behavioral difficulties, and what we "do" through public policies and programs. Finally, they suggest several evidence-based implications for early childhood policy and programs.

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