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The Family and Child Development: A Systems Approach to Theory and Practice

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Schedule for Both Days
Dr. Pat Levitt

A group of eminent scientists whose work bears on child development has called for the linking of theory, practice, and research to improve developmental outcomes for children. The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child issued this call in its paper, “From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts” which can be found on its website. The council is part of Harvard University’s Center for the Developing Child. Its mission is to bridge the gap between growing scientific knowledge about child development and practical efforts to promote the well-being of children. Many of the incisive questions raised by the paper have been and could be addressed in an innovative way through the use of Bowen family systems theory.

The conference will offer the opportunity to open a dialogue between Dr. Pat Levitt, the scientific director of the council, and the national and international network of professionals trained in Bowen theory who work in a variety of capacities with families who have young children. Dr. Levitt is Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, and the Director of Developmental Neurogenetics there. He has published widely on the genetic and environmental factors that increase risk for neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. He describes how the timing and quality of early life experiences can “exert a powerful influence on both the pattern of brain architecture and behavioral development”. His work also makes clear the important role that later experience plays in maintaining and elaborating this early wiring in the brain and affecting development beyond the early years.

The linking of theory, practice, and research called for in the Breakthroughs paper could occur at this meeting and perhaps stimulate the formation of hypotheses that could be tested in small-scale pilot projects. A theory based on the entire family as an emotional unit may have much to contribute to what the Council calls for—a science-based R&D program in early childhood development guided by theory.