Overview of the Early Childhood Peace Consortium’s Early Childhood and Peacebuilding Research and Practice


Early childhood development (ECD) is a critical period in a child’s life, impacting their neuropsychosocial health and ability to reach their full developmental and economic potential. ECD is endorsed as a transformative element in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which emphasize the importance of equal access to early learning and lifelong education for all children. However, many children do not receive adequate nurturing care due to socioeconomic stresses and caregivers’ mental health. Research has shown positive effects of ECD interventions that incorporate nurturing care. The available evidence also indicates that how a community attends to its children (their health, safety, sense of being loved and valued) can set the stage for a more peaceful world. However, limited evidence specifically examines pathways from early childhood to peacebuilding (that is, actions that promote sustainable peace by supporting prosocial skills needed for peace 1). This review summarizes the interdisciplinary body of knowledge that can help build a peaceful, equitable, and sustainable world through effective ECD programming. To address today’s global inequities, researchers and practitioners must better understand family and community dynamics and their implications for child development. This knowledge is crucial to tailor evidence-based ECD services to family and community needs and promote the long-term acceptability, uptake, and sustainability of programs. However, governments or policymakers still need to thoroughly prioritize high-quality ECD services. This review emphasizes the importance of cross-sectoral partnerships and coalitions to propel effective ECD research, programming, and advocacy. 
Donors, governments, and policymakers must prioritize investments in translational research of the relationships between early childhood development and peacebuilding outcomes, such as social cohesion, community mobilization, diversified social networks, and trust. Early experiences, as determined by the interaction between the developing child’s brain and the immediate environment, lay the foundation for violent or peaceful relations and behaviors in later life. Interventions targeting the family, or the developing child can impact the child’s propensity for violent or peaceful relationships and behaviors in later life. This review summarizes the interdisciplinary body of knowledge generated by members of the Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC) that can help build a peaceful, equitable, and sustainable world. This review details global ECD research to better draw the connections between parenting, bio-behavioral development, and peacebuilding efforts. While there is growing evidence for a catalyst role of ECD programs and families in conflict-affected regions, more significant structural interventions are needed to sustain more peaceful, socially cohesive, and resilient communities.
Four areas of key findings and recommendations for research and practice at the intersection of ECD and peacebuilding emerged from this review:
  1. Preprimary education and 0-3 parenting programs can significantly improve early learning. Supporting parents and their partners in caring for their children can improve child outcomes. Research in hard-to-access regions has shown that caregiver-guided education and mass media can contribute to peace and stability. 
  2. Engaging caregivers in ECD interventions can reduce conflict, violence, aggression, and psychopathology, benefiting their children’s well-being and developmental outcomes. Engaging fathers in care can improve family well-being and reduce caregiving stress. Effective community engagement, self-sustaining programs, and stakeholder involvement are crucial for widespread peacebuilding and successful implementation.
  3. The available evidence demonstrates the added value of engaging youth in intergenerational programs. The ECPC can serve as a youth access point for peacebuilding projects. Research co-designed and implemented by youth and ECPC researchers could inform the next generation of peacebuilding research.
  4. Research on ECD and peacebuilding primarily focuses on individual outcomes, neglecting community and structural factors. A new generation of research is needed to understand the multi-level effects of ECD programs on social cohesion and community-level aspects. Such analysis must also account for the neurobiological foundations that shape early life experiences and subsequent pathways to peace. 

READ the full text. 

Title Overview of the Early Childhood Peace Consortium’s Early Childhood and Peacebuilding Research and Practice
Publication Type White paper
Published Year 2023
Publisher Early Childhood Peace Consortium
Authors S. Hein; E.C.P.C.Research W. Group
Grant List


For breaking news and to stay connected, follow us on social media. Sign up to get our E-News delivered straight to your inbox.