Early Childhood Development Research

“Biological embedding” occurs in the first five years of life and significantly determines social, economic and health outcomes later on


The purpose of this project was to inform decision making related to early intervention programs for at-risk children. The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) developed a model for testing the hypothesis that “biological embedding” impacts the development of individuals early in life by biologically encoding neural, neuroendocrine and neuroimmune systems. These systems subsequently influence health outcomes later in life. The hypothesis suggests that the capacities of an individual are sculpted in the early years of life by the surrounding environment in ways that are long lasting, if not permanent. CIFAR was interested in examining the impact of low socioeconomic status (SES) during a child’s early developmental years on their long term economic and social success. This project set out to test whether meaningful interventions for “at-risk” children could successfully intervene in individual success over the long term, by imbuing children with different kinds of “biological embedding” in order to prepare them for success.

Grant Outputs

Hypothesis about Community Effects on Social Outcomes –

This article describes three hypotheses to explain the relationship between a person’s social outcomes and their socio-economic status. First, the Hypothesis of Community Differences assumes communities differ in social outcomes regardless of the socio-economic status of its members. The Hypothesis of Converging Gradients assumes successful communities have successfully bolstered the social outcomes of their least advantaged citizens. The Hypothesis of Double Jeopardy assumes that people from the least advantaged backgrounds are vulnerable, and those that live in less advantaged communities are the most vulnerable. The report concludes with suggestions for research that could test these hypotheses.

Media and Policy Campaign for Information Dissemination –

The research outcomes from this project resulted in substantial information transfers to policymakers and the interested public.

Scholar’s Research Guides Service for Children, Families: United Way program supports first five years – http://www.publicaffairs.ubc.ca/ubcreports/2001/01oct18/united.html

This report highlights how the research conducted by CIFAR’s Professor Clyde Hertzman resulted in a decision by the United Way to support the community program Success By 6, which aims to strengthen early childhood development services for children up to age 6 and their families.

Grant Details

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