As early as nine months old, infants born into poverty score lower on cognitive development measures than their more affluent peers. This gap triples by the age of two, and grows significantly through a child’s early years. These disparities have a cascade of negative consequences with impact extending into their lifelong health and social well-being.
Today, we know one of the primary drivers of disparities in infant physical brain development is a child’s early experiences. Rich language environments, responsive caregivers, and adult-child exchanges are critical to building babies’ brains, yet far too many parents and caregivers have neither the knowledge nor the support they need to have meaningful impact.
The TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health is working to change this.
A joint venture between the University of Chicago’s Biological Sciences and Social Sciences Divisions, the TMW Center aims to create a population-level shift in knowledge and behavior of parents and caregivers to optimize children’s foundational brain development, particularly those living in poverty. The research institute develops and tests evidence-based interventions that put parents and caregivers at the center of their children’s education. Advancing a novel public health approach to prevent early cognitive disparities, the center engages families, works across systems, harnesses technology, leverages behavioral economics, and uses rigorous scientific methods to ensure that parent and caregiver interventions yield strong outcomes in the real world.