Resilience — it’s not about grit; it’s about relationships.
That’s one of the takeaways of a new report issued by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, which seeks to unite the science of early childhood development with the policies we devise to support disadvantaged kids.
Despite good intentions, too many of our efforts to help children overcome adversity are failing to prioritize the power of a strong adult relationship, as well as the other key building blocks of resilience, the report maintains. And by mischaracterizing the battle that disadvantaged kids face as one of individual motivation or grit, policies send a signal that kids themselves are at fault if they fail to thrive.
“There is no magical ‘resilience gene,’” says Jack Shonkoff, chair of the council and director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard. “When we think that kids just need willpower to overcome adversity, we miss opportunities to provide the relationships and build the skills that can actually strengthen resilience.”
The report outlines several examples of policies that miss the mark when it comes to building capacity for resilience:
The report also offers new approaches that can build the foundations of resilience:
Read Part I of our exploration of resilience, about the scientific basis of resilience (and why it flourishes or weakens).
As director of the Center on the Developing Child, Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., is using the science of early childhood development to drive innovation in policy and practice, with the goal of transforming life outcomes for disadvantaged children and reducing the consequences of early adversity.