Promoting the capacity for peace in early childhood: Perspectives from research on resilience in children and families

TitlePromoting the capacity for peace in early childhood: Perspectives from research on resilience in children and families
Publication TypeBook Chapter
AuthorsMasten, A. S.
EditorLeckman, J. F., C. Panter-Brick, and R. Salah
Lessons gleaned from five decades of research on resilience in children and youth exposed to trauma and adversity of many kinds, including war and family violence, may have important conceptual and practical implications for efforts to understand and promote pathways of peace in human adaptation and development. This chapter highlights concepts, approaches, findings, and controversies from studies of resilience that may prove informative for understanding and promoting pathways to peace in early childhood. These include a relational developmental systems perspective on peace; an emphasis on positive goals, processes, and pathways; issues in defining how well human systems at multiple levels are doing; delineation of adaptive systems that promote and protect peaceful function in interacting human systems; consideration of developmental timing and cascading influences among individual children and their nurturing environments; and the importance of intervention evidence for advancing a translational science agenda for peace. Resilience science also suggests that delineating processes of peace and peacebuilding in childhood requires attention to processes by which interacting systems shape the development and experiences of childhood pertinent to peace, particularly in the nurturing environments of childrearing and early education. Resilience frameworks suggest three basic approaches to promoting capacity for peace in the lives of children: mitigating risk or preventing exposure to experiences that undermine capacity for peace; boosting resources and opportunities that nurture the capacity for peace; and mobilizing powerful adaptive systems that support and protect human capabilities for peace in hazardous circumstances. Theoretically, these strategies should contribute to building capacity among children for peace, as a foundation for learning peaceful means of social interactions, managing conflict, and responding to stress or trauma. Additionally, resilience frameworks emphasize the importance of strategic timing and targeting to interrupt negative and facilitate positive cascades in (p.252) development and boost the return on investments in children. Findings from research on early onset pathways toward and away from violence are discussed, including preventive interventions that promote prosocial development while also reducing antisocial outcomes, including violence. Key questions are raised for consideration by those aiming to promote peace through early childhood policies and practices. The first set of questions stems from the principle that “competence begets competence” in human development, asking whether building success in the developmental tasks of early childhood might also promote potential peace-related goals, attitudes, skills and processes in children and their ecologies, which could in turn contribute to peace at the level of families, communities, or societies. The second set considers whether reducing structural violence (i.e., inequalities in income, healthcare, education, and opportunities in early childhood) might promote peace along with better health and well-being at the level of individuals and societies. A third set raises provocative issues related to possibilities that capacities and skills intended to promote peace could also be applied to promote conflict and war and questions about whether violence can be adaptive or peace-promoting under some circumstances.
Title Promoting the capacity for peace in early childhood: Perspectives from research on resilience in children and families
Publication Title Pathways to peace: The transformative power of children and families
Publication Type Book Chapter
Published Year 2014
Publisher The MIT Press
Authors A.S. Masten
Editors J.F. Leckman; C. Panter-Brick; R. Salah
Section 14
Grant List


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