Foundations for a new approach

Although we are living in tumultuous times, there is much hope in the prospect of early childhood development programs as a tool for building peace.
Cover "Pathways to Peace: The Transformative Power of Children & Families."
Cover "Pathways to Peace: The Transformative Power of Children & Families." © 2014 Courtesy MIT Press

Chapter 1. Peace is a lifelong process: The importance of partnerships

James F. Leckman, Catherine Panter-Brick, Rima Salah

This chapter examines potential pathways to peace based on the biological and social underpinnings of child development. It assesses child development in the context of familial and group relations and examines its potential role in building pathways to peace. Early childhood education and family support programs can result in huge, long-term benefits. Investment in early childhood holds potential for economic and human returns and can boost adult physical health as well as enhance social capital and gender equity. The global peacebuilding agenda aims to recognize the transformative power of early development as a means to promote prosociality, diminish selfish assertiveness, and reduce/prevent violence. A platform to advocate for change needs to be created to strengthen established and emerging networks around children and peace. Published in the Strungmann Forum Reports Series.

For more information on chapter, “Peace is a lifelong process”, please visit our resource library.

Chapter 2. Framing our analysis: A dialectical perspective

Robert A. Hinde, Joan Stevenson-Hinde

This chapter presents a framework (Figure 2.1) to examine dialectical relations between successive levels of analysis. It represents dynamic processes, with bidirectional influences and continuous change over time, and is particularly relevant to child rearing, where parental adaptation to change is essential. Attachment theory and research indicate how early parent-child interactions lead to the development of an attachment bond, and how the quality of this attachment lays a foundation for the child’s socioemotional development. Finally, viewing behavior within the context of our common evolutionary past leads to the assumption of two basic propensities: selfish assertiveness, which primarily benefits the actor, and prosociality, which benefits others. These propensities remain with us today and suggest the need to provide contexts that promote more pro-sociality and less selfish assertiveness, both within our own groups as well as toward other groups.

For more information on chapter, “Framing our analysis”, please visit our resource library.

Chapter 3. Ecology of peace

Pia R. Britto, Ilanit Gordon, William Hodges, Diane Sunar, Cigdem Kagitcibasi, & James F. Leckman

Peace is a state of being that encompasses harmonious international as well as intra- and interpersonal relationships, directly impacting an individual’s safety and prosperity. For an individual, peace is a positive “state of mind” conditioned by our histories and context. The concept “ecology of peace” is introduced to capture these vast interconnected ecosystems that extend from our internal biology to our subjective sense of self (i.e., our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors) to the environments in which we live. It is our thesis that positive, stimulating, and harmonious early childhoods can contribute to peace and human security, and that early-life interventions have transformative power which may help lay the foundations for conflict resolution and peace in future generations. As such, we posit that these interventions can contribute to “ peacebuilding” (actions that promote sustainable peace by supporting the prosocial skills needed for peace) as well as “ peacemaking” through the enhancement of positive reciprocal communication within families, communities, and nations. This chapter reviews (a) neurobiological foundations of peace, including genetic, epigenetic, hormonal, developmental, and social factors that shape young brains; (b) the importance of parenting and early learning for peacebuilding; and (c) the place that early childhood can play in bridging the gap between peacebuilding and peacemaking. Evidence from available developmental neurobiology as well as social and economic studies suggests that change in favor of peace can be initiated not only from the top down, through official policies and agencies, but also from the bottom up, by supporting the physical, emotional, and social development of children and the well-being of their families and communities.

For more information on chapter, “Ecology of peace”, please visit our resource library.

Chapter abstracts reprinted courtesy of the MIT Press.


James F. Leckman, Catherine Panter-Brick, and Rima Salah (eds.), Pathways to Peace: The Transformative Power of Children and Families, © 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies. 


  1. Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS) 
  2. The MIT Press 
  3. The Strüngmann Forum Reports series

Topics & initiatives


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