How much do childrens early experiences affect their cognitive and social development? How important is the parents role in child development? Is it possible to ameliorate or reverse the consequences of early developmental deficits? This vitally important book draws on the latest research from the social sciences and studies on the brain to answer these questions and to explore what they mean for social policy and child and family development.The authors affirm that sound social policy providing for safe and appropriate early care, education, health care, and parent support is critical not only for the optimal development of children, but also for strengthening families, communities, and the nation as a whole. Offering a wealth of advice and recommendations, they explain:the benefits of family leave, child care, and home visitation programs; the damage that child abuse inflicts; the vital importance of nutrition (and breast feeding) for pregnant women and young children; the adverse effects that occur in misguided efforts to disseminate research too early; and more.Written by experts in the field of early child development, care, and education, the book is essential reading for parents and policymakers alike.