Social and economic disadvantages experienced in early childhood can limit children’s opportunities for health throughout life. These health disadvantages may then be passed across generations. In addition, research shows that early exposure to toxic stress—traumatic experiences such as neglect, abuse, or homelessness—can rewire a child’s brain, with serious health consequences extending into adulthood. Intervening in early childhood can break the vicious cycle of social and health disadvantage into adulthood and across generations.
This fact sheet reviews key elements of successful early childhood programs, estimated savings to society, and known risks of failing to invest in early childhood development.