Center on the Developing Child

The mission of the Center on the Developing Child is to drive science-based innovation that achieves breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity.


We believe that advances in science provide a powerful source of new ideas focused on the early years of life. Founded in 2006, the Center catalyzes local, national, and international innovation in policy and practice focused on children and families. We design, test, and implement these ideas in collaboration with a broad network of research, practice, policy, community, and philanthropic leaders. Together, we seek transformational impacts on lifelong learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.

The Brain Architects: COVID-19 and Early Childhood Development


In this first episode from a special COVID-19 series of The Brain Architects podcast, Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D. discusses the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of early childhood development. He offers advice to help ensure that adults and the children they care for don’t experience the long-term effects of stress, and explains how society can work together to continue to support healthy development.

Infant-Parent Psychotherapy in the Clinical World:

An Overview of Principles and the Range of Evidence-Based Practices and Practice-Based Evidence.

Robin Balbernie – 1 June 2020

Infant-parent psychotherapy is a core profession within clinical services for families with very young children. It is a reflective and relationship-based technique that aims to encourage the best possible emotional connection between baby or toddler and his or her parents, building on strengths while also addressing the range of internal and external factors that may be impeding this.

‘The practice of infant-parent psychotherapy within a team setting, serving a local high risk population, was probably one of the main starting points for the now world-wide infant mental health movement………”

Click here to read more of this excellent paper from Robin

June 2020 Monthly Update

Center on the Developing Child


The latest content/events and more from the Center on the Developing Child including new working paper ‘Connecting the brain to the rest of the body: Early Childhood Development and lifelong health are deeply intertwined’

The environments we create and the experiences we provide for young children and their families affect not just the developing brain, but also other physiological systems… on 

Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Programme 2020/2021 Delivery Plan, Scottish Government

This broader policy responsibility moved the focus for the Programme Board from IMH only where it interfaced with perinatal issues and services, to a broader remit and scope for all IMH and the IMH delivery plan reflects this.

So whilst the perinatal delivery plan still includes some aspects of IMH where they relate to perinatal care, the IMH delivery plan stands on its own. However, we are thoughtful to ensure that these are not seen as two entirely separate plans, hence they are presented together here.

…read on.


Service Requirements for a Specialist Infant Mental Health Service. (A possible set of organising principles for team set-up and development.)

The prime purpose for developing set of service requirements is to create a model for an idealised infant-parent relationship team, but not with the expectation that every existing team will meet all the criteria. It is more a case of both having something to aim for and, perhaps, to use as a yardstickfor internal monitoring and service development. Also, such a document could be employed with commissioners and managers as it provides a framework that can be taken into consideration when planning to either create or expand a specialised infant mental health service service….read on.

This could be done in conjunction with the PIF UK Toolkit and Resources for setting up a specialised infant mental health team see:

Infant Mental Health Services: Recognising the Importance of Relationships in the Early Years as the Foundation for Practice-Based Evidence.

Probably the most important period in everyone’s life is one they cannot remember. The first two or three years, the time before memory can be verbally tagged for later retrieval, set their stamp on all that comes after. This includes the period of pregnancy, always significant and often marked by conflicted feelings for the mother (and father too) and a time that lays down the groundwork for the future development of the child (Slade and Sadler, 2019)… on


‘Seeing Through Babies Eyes: receiving distress in the day-nursery’


An excellent clear and knowledgeable paper here from Debbie Brace. Early Language Consultant  ‘Baby Talk and Play’ 

Debbie is a professional member of AIMH (UK)

‘Distress and comfort interactions are part and parcel of every day interactions in the baby room of a day nursery but the way babies’ are seen and understood to communicate distress and the way adults are observed to respond varies enormously.

This is important because these interactions are known to have a profound effect on emotional development and need to be thought about carefully as nurseries begin to re open and babies are reunited and resettled with their carers following months in lockdown. Some unsettled behaviour is to be expected from everyone….. read on


Parent-Infant Psychotherapy for Sleep Problems:
Through the Night

By  Dilys Daws  Sarah Sutton

Sleep problems are among the most common, urgent and undermining troubles parents meet. This book describes Dilys Daws’ pioneering method of therapy for sleep problems, honed over 40 years of work with families: brief psychoanalytic therapy with parents and infants together.

This much-needed, compassionate and well-informed guide to helping parents and babies with sleep problems draws on twenty-first century development research and rich clinical wisdom to offer ways of understanding sleep problems in each individual family context, with all its particular pressures and possibilities. It will be treasured by new parents struggling with sleeplessness and is enormously valuable for anyone working with parents and their babies.

Parent-Infant Psychotherapy for Sleep Problems:
Through the Night

Click here for leaflet offering 20% discount

ISBN 9780429198212

Published April 7, 2020 by Routledge

200 Pages


Our Factsheet for Parents and Practitioners – ‘Emotional Survival for Infants and their Parents’

‘Why children may be more demanding at this uncertain time’

Children need their parents to be calm and sensitive to their needs. This is not easy when we are all stressed. Here are some tips on how children may be feeling, why they might be behaving differently, and what parents can do to help………

Click here for the full factsheet

For Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 20:20 Vision – Seeing the world through babies eyes

Robin Balbernie writes on this subject for #IMHAW20

“Babies like to look at their parents, they are hardwired for this from birth, even if the view is somewhat blurred to start with. Any older siblings are quite interesting to look at too, maybe with grandparents coming in soon. All these important relationships are the world as seen through the baby’s eyes, the most important thing to be seen in the first couple of years of life…..” read on


iHV – Institute of Health Visiting – NOTIFICATION

Delivering the Health Visitor Healthy Child Programme during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Professional advice to support best practice – WORKING WITH VULNERABLE FAMILIES

Summary: This professional advice aims to describe the new process for delivery of safeguarding vulnerable families by health visitor teams during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Priority is given to protecting the health and wellbeing of both the family and professionals.

Access the full information here

Parent-Infant Foundation

The Parent-Infant Foundation was founded as Parent Infant Partnership UK in 2012 to create a network of parent-infant teams across the UK (PIPs) with the vision of giving every baby the best start in life.

The Parent Infant Foundation:

  • utilise current evidence to assist our work with specialised parent-infant relationship teams and decision makers
  • support the creation of new evidence through their own research and evidence activities and their support to local teams.

Free software and support is provided to any specialised parent-infant relationship team in the UK. The Foundation data portal tracks bespoke output and outcome data that statutory or off-the-shelf data management systems often miss.

This helps local teams to:

  • communicate more easily with stakeholders, funders and commissioners
  • benchmark their performance against an anonymised national data set
  • support their quality improvement work

Royal College of General Practitioners – Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit

Up to one in five women and one in ten men are affected by mental health problems during pregnancy and the first year after birth. Unfortunately, only 50% of these are diagnosed. Without appropriate treatment, the negative impact of mental health problems during the perinatal period is enormous and can have long-lasting consequences on not only women, but their partners and children too. However, this is not inevitable. When problems are diagnosed early and treatment offered promptly, these effects can be mitigated.

How can the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit be used?

This toolkit is a set of relevant tools to assist members of the primary care team to deliver the highest quality care to women with mental health problems in the perinatal period. As well as offering a diverse collection of resources, the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit gives details of additional learning for individual practitioners as well as resources specifically aimed at women and their families.


Cheshire and Mersey Specialist Perinatal Service – Mental healthcare for women and families.

Keeping the baby in mind during COVID-19

FAQ’s for Specialist Perinatal Clinicians

Parents’ wellbeing has a direct impact on their babies. Mental health problems already affect the lives of 10-20% of women in the perinatal period. Approximately one in ten fathers are also affected by mental illness during this period.  Many perinatal mental health problems go undetected in normal circumstances……Read on.

A Guide to COVID-19 and Early Childhood Development – Centre on the Developing Child at Harvard University

The global response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has changed daily life in many ways for many people. Yet child development has not paused, and supporting children, families, and care providers of all kinds is as important as ever. In this guide, the Center on the Developing Child has gathered a number of resources and recommendations to help through this challenging time. This guide pulls together information on COVID-19, what it means for child development, and easy-to-share resources that can help parents and caregivers, as well as child care providers, pediatricians, and others who work with families.

Access the guide here

Greater Manchester Perinatal and Parent Infant Mental Health Service:

Championing 1001 Critical Days


This Long-Term Plan aims to increase access to specialist perinatal community mental health teams and to improve the quality of care provided by the teams for mothers, their partners and children


Access the document here

WAIMH (World Association for Infant Mental Health) 17th World Congress


June 23-27, 2021 – Creating stories in Infant Mental Health: research, recovery and regeneration’


“We invite you to Brisbane, Australia, for the 17th World Congress, June 23-27, 2021. The conference theme is ‘Creating stories in Infant Mental Health: research, recovery and regeneration’. Australia is a land with a rich story-telling history. Come and join us to reflect on our shared infant mental health journey and create new stories together”

Brisbane congress website:

Congress website: The Registration is open.
Contact email

We thank you very much for your ongoing support and wish you and your families’ safety and health during this time of crisis.”

Kindest Regards
WAIMH 2020 Congress Secretariat

Profile:  Dr Sarah Temple MRCGP GP and Director EHCAP Ltd


Sarah is a GP but also runs a social enterprise and has developed a number of online resources which she is very happy for AIMH (UK) to share. Do read her information below, particularly in relation to Covid-19

“Our e-learning modules seem to be particularly popular at the moment with both parents and staff and are accessed through . I am constantly updating this page with information relevant to the coronavirus pandemic – again for both parents and staff.

The approach to wellness that I have developed in collaboration with Public Health in Somerset is known as The MACE Approach (Mindful Emotion Coaching and Adverse Childhood Experience). This is a trauma-informed approach and the resources are available via links at . The project we ran in Essex with The Child and Family Wellbeing Service  is .”

Measuring parental conflict and its impact on child outcomes

Early Intervention Foundation – Guidance on selecting and using valid, reliable and practical measures to evaluate interventions – 24 March 2020


This practical guide has been developed to improve understanding of how to measure if the outcomes of the parents and children affected by parental conflict have improved after an intervention or access to services.


The Brain Architects Podcasts – Center on the Developiing Child

From brain architecture to toxic stress to serve and return, The Brain Architects, a new podcast from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, focuses on the specific, practical questions that often arise for parents and caregivers during the critically important period of early childhood.

Bringing together experts and practitioners from pediatrics, social services, and education, among other disciplines, the podcast gathers many different voices that aren’t always speaking directly to each other. And, by answering questions such as, “What does toxic stress actually look like in the day-to-day?” and “How can I make sure I’m building my child’s brain?”

The Brain Architects can help all of us to use the science of child development to improve the lives of the children we interact with every day.

The Brain Architects Podcast



Three Early Childhood Development Principles to Improve Outcomes for Children and Families.

Recent advances in the science of brain development offer us an unprecedented opportunity to solve some of society’s most challenging problems, from widening disparities in school achievement and economic productivity to costly health problems across the lifespan. Understanding how the experiences children have starting at birth, even prenatally, affect lifelong outcomes—combined with new knowledge about the core capabilities adults need to thrive as parents and in the workplace—provides a strong foundation upon which policymakers and civic leaders can design a shared and more effective agenda.

The science of child development and the core capabilities of adults point to a set of “design principles” that policymakers and practitioners in many different sectors can use to improve outcomes for children and families.

The design principles


Applying the Science of Early Childhood Development.

Separation and Detention of Migrant Children and Families

The science of early childhood development tells us the sudden, forcible separation of children from their parents is deeply traumatic for both. And even if families are detained together, the stress on both parents and children can affect their healthy development across the lifespan. Prolonged institutionalization and neglect are critical issues that transcend political ideology and partisanship, and speak to the heart of what the mission of the Center on the Developing Child is all about. 

This compilation of resources explains the impact of toxic stress, child maltreatment, and neglect on early childhood development. It also includes testimonies, statements, and media coverage from Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D. and members of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child.

Other Center Related Resources


Toxic Stress

Child Maltreatment and Neglect

Early Years Foundation Stage Reforms – Consultation Summary

October 2019 – the Department for Education launched a public consultation seeking views on changes to the statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (EYFS). The goal of the reforms is to improve outcomes for all children and reduce workload.

The early years foundation stage (EYFS) statutory framework sets the standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years old. it is mandatory in all early years settings and contains three sections

Visit the Foundation Years website for a summary of the consultation..

Submit your views here – closes 31 Jan 2020


The EYFS are seeking views on proposed changes to the statutory framework for the early years foundation stage.

Why They Are Consulting

The aim of the consultation is to seek views from interested parties on proposed changes to the statutory framework for the early years foundation stage.  

This consultation seeks views on:

  • Proposed revisions to the educational programmes;
  • Proposed revisions to the early learning goals;
  • Proposed changes to the assessment and moderation process for the early years foundation stage profile;
  • A proposed change to the safeguarding and welfare requirements to promote good oral health.


‘Basis – ‘Baby Sleep Info Source’

A really good resource for practitioners here

The aim of Basis is to provide online access to up-to-date research based evidence about infant sleep, in forms that are accessible to parents and health practitioners, supported by references to research relevant to families in the UK.

Basis began as the Infant Sleep Info Source (ISIS) website project, drawing on the combined experience of Professor Helen Ball and her team at the Durham University Parent-Infant Sleep Lab (now the Durham Infancy & Sleep Centre), and senior representatives from La Leche League, NCT, and UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative, all being organisations working directly in the fields of parent-support and health professional training in the UK.


‘The Infant Socialist; Mean Societies Produce Mean People

Babies haven’t changed much for millennia. Give or take a few enzymes this perfectly designed little bundle of desires and interests has not needed to evolve. Of all primates, the human is the most immature at birth, after which brain growth accelerates and is ‘wired’ according to the kinds of experience the infant has. Provided there are a few familiar and affectionate people there to care continuously for him or her, baby will be fine. If not, evolution has taken care of that too. You live in a cruel world and treat him roughly? He will develop into a compulsively self-reliant and ruthless individual with little concern for others. Mean societies produce mean people…read the full paper here

Author: Sebastian Kraemer. AIMH (UK) Advisor, Honorary Consultant, Tavistock Clinic

‘The Era of Using Video for Observation and Intervention in Infant Mental Health’ 

The use of photography and cinema then video in developmental studies and in interventions began long ago, with the seminal work of Rene Spitz, then with John Bowlby’s and James and Joyce Robertson’s famous films, e.g. John and with several others. These have had an enormous influence on our understanding of infant mental health and in its recognition as a field. This paper presents a short history of the work of the early “cinema” pioneers, then briefly reviews how video has provided a focus on the importance of infant development and early interactions and concludes with how preventive work with infants and families has greatly benefited from the use of home videos.

Authors: Guédeney, Nicole, MD; Guédeney, Antoine, MD. France

Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adoclescent Psychiatry

Voume 14, Issue 3,  pages 387-421: Selma Frayberg; Edna Adelson; Vivian Shapiro

Ghosts in the Nursery

A Psychoanalytical Approach to the Problems of Impaired Infant-Mother Relationships

Selma Fraiberg is Professor of Child Psychoanalysis and Director of the Child Development Project, Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan. Edna Adelson is a psychologist and Vivian Shapiro a social worker; both senior staff members at the Child Development Project.

This paper is an extended version of one given as the Beata Rank Memorial Lecture, Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, May 23, 1974.

The Infant Mental Health Program described in these pages supported by the Grant Foundation of New York, National Institutes of Mental Health Grant #1 Rol MH 24746-01 A1, and the University of Michigan Medical School General Research Support Grant #NIH 5801-RR05385-11.


Comfort Zone – Behaviour : Distress

Understanding and responding to young children’s distress is vital to their future mental health.

 This article from Nursery World (4-31 March) has been written by Debbie Brace (AIMH UK). In this excellent article she talks about the process of ‘receiving’ a child’s distress; a complex psychological exchange that can be overwhelming for practitioners and parents alike…..

Read the full article here


The science of child development points to three core principles that can guide what society needs to do to help children and families thrive. These include:

  1. Supporting responsive relationships
  2. Strengthening core life skills
  3. Reducing sources of stress

Play in early childhood is an effective way of supporting all three of these principles. In this video, learn more about how play can foster children’s resilience to hardship, and how the complex interactions involved when children play help build their brains.

Thank you Best Beginnings for permission to upload this video from one of the much praised video series ‘From Bump to Breastfeeding’ – following real mothers stories to find out how. More videos here – ‘From Bump to Breastfeeding’ was developed to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding while acknowledging the challenges and providing the motivation for parents to persevere. It was designed to increase breastfeeding initiation rates in some areas and tackle the rates of mothers breastfeeding beyond the first week in parts of the country where rates are very low.

Presentation to the Duchess of Cambridge on launch of The Royal Foundation 

A steering group, convened by The Duchess of Cambridge and The Royal Foundation, chaired by Scott Greenhalgh, met for the first time in May last year to discuss what can be done to make a positive difference to the lives of children, by focussing on their earliest stage of life, from pre-birth to infancy.

The steering group set up by The Duchess of Cambridge met to discuss the scope and ambition for the work ahead. Her Royal Highness is keen to build strong partnerships between academics, practitioners and charities to raise awareness of issues relating to young children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, as well as their future development and achievement, and to increase support for mothers-to-be, parents, families, teachers and practitioners.

Read Jane Barlow’s initial presentation to The Duchess of Cambridge 


Retrospective but well worth reading – Statement on Visit to the United Kingdom, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights – 16 November 2018

14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line,1 and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials.2 The widely respected Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a 7% rise in child poverty between 2015 and 2022, and various sources predict child poverty rates of as high as 40%.3 For almost one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one……..

Read full Statement here

House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee. First 1000 Days of Life. Thirteenth Report of Session 2017-2019.

Report, together with formal minutes relating to the Report. Published on 26 February 2019.

Access full report here

Foundation Years Information and Research

Foundation Years Information and Research exists to ensure that the vital importance of the first years of life is recognised by our society.

Their aim is:

  • To advance public education and understanding of the substantial body of scientific work on the extent to which the earliest relationships play a major role in shaping a baby’s brain and in influencing their future mental and physical health

  • To promote research and study into all aspects of the foregoing, including improved knowledge of neuroscience and developmental processes and to make available the useful results.   Read more about FYIR here


Infant Regulation and Child Mental Health Concerns: A Longitudinal Study

Copyright © 2019 by the American Academy of Pediatrics

OBJECTIVES: To examine profiles of infant regulatory behaviors and associated family characteristics in a community sample of 12-month-old infants and mental health difficulties at 5 and 11 years of age. Find out more 


Early Years Transformation Academy Hub. Early Intervention Foundation

The EYTA Hub provides a set of evidence-based tools and resources for local commissioners, service managers and practitioners working in maternity and early years support.

These tools and resources have been developed as part of the Early Years Transformation Academy applied strand – a 12-month intensive guided learning programme run by EIF and its partners. Find out more.

The resources on the EYTA Hub are made available via the Early Years Transformation Academy learning strand, which provides open access to information about evidence, implementation, system and workforce development in the early years, with a particular focus on helping to achieve improvements and system-wide changes at the local level.

Early Intervention Foundation Report – December 2018
‘Key competencies in early cognitive development. Things, people, numbers and words’

Kirsten Asmussen, James Law, Jenna Charlton, Daniel Acquah,
Lucy Brims, Ines Pote, Tom McBride.

This review provides a comprehensive summary of the development of four important competencies during the first five years of life by systematically answering seven key questions…….

Read the Report here


In the summer of 1985, Richard de Leeuw introduced the Kangaroo Method to the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam.

The parents take over the routine care of their own premature babies, and cradle them against their bare skin. Even babies who are three months premature, demonstrate an intense reaction to this skinning. It benefits not only their physical condition, but also their mental development.

 A documentary by Saskia van Rees and Dr. Richard de Leeuw.

This short film shows baby Naseera inside her father’s T shirt, as he sings to her, it is very moving. You can purchase this video, along with others that could be of interest from this website


Tuesday 13 November 2018. Health and Social Care Committee discuss ‘First 1000 days of life’ – A great opportunity to listen to a very interesting debate.