Community practices refer to everything outside a particular family, so that means policies and practices of neighborhoods, counties, cities, states, schools, and workplaces. Institutions that govern our lives also need to be responsible to promote flourishing in children. Here are some ideas for ways for community practices to support children and families.
Many parents and communities have forgotten what babies need for healthy development. The new research on epigenetic effects of experience on wellbeing must be widely disseminated.
CHILD CARE CENTERS
We are excited to unveil Evolved Nest’s Child Care Center Checklist. The Checklist has been created to help parents and guardians determine how well a child care center matches up with the components of the Evolved Nest. The checklist is intended to be supplemental to the other protocols a center has (e.g., infection prevention, abuse prevention, diaper change frequency). Please share widely.
PAID PARENTAL LEAVE
All nations should provide paid parental leave for at least a year, if not longer, so that parents can focus their full attention on bonding and building responsive care based on the needs of the child. Several European nations are effectively implementing this practice (Pew Research Center 2019). Paid parental leave will allow parents to be responsive to the ongoing needs of their young children, preventing the toxic stress that arises from babies left alone, to cry or in stranger daycare.
QUALITY CHILD CARE
Government supplementation of quality child care would reduce worker turnover. Free market systems do not work properly for this service as most parents cannot afford the cost of a highly educated and trained caregiver who provides quality care. Teachers also struggle within the profession due to unsustainably low wages.
(1) As a profession, adopt the evolved developmental niche (EDN) as a baseline for child raising.
This would not only give parents consistent guidance but policy makers also “would be better able to make informed choices about how best to structure social institutions and social support to ensure citizens have a chance to develop optimally” (Narvaez & Witherington, 2018, p. 210).
(2) Formulate policy statements on parenting based on the EDN baseline (Narvaez, Panksepp, Schore & Gleason, 2013)
(3) Formulate policy statements on structuring society and institutions to support children and families.
(1) Establish a [nested] baseline for evolved human functioning;
(2) Examine current epidemic problems in light of evolved, expected care (e.g., anxiety, depression, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome);
(3) Examine the effects of the missing evolved and expected care on health and immunity, including cancer (e.g., vagus nerve function)
(4) Establish a national database on the relation of early experience to mental health.
(5) Establish a research initiative focused on how the missing evolved, expected care may affect mental health at all ages.
(6) Adopt the evolved developmental niche (EDN) as a baseline for child raising. This “would allow researchers to measure child developmental differences and the dynamics concerning the nature of care received. Researchers across domains could operationalize species typicality for different phases in life and, for example, measure its degree in participants, analyzing what differences the EDN makes in terms of multiple physiological systems related to psychological functioning, psychological characteristics themselves and multigenerational fitness.” (Narvaez & Witherington, 2018, p. 210)
(7) “More cross-disciplinary research with those outside of psychology should be encouraged… Psychology should shift to a multi-level integration of gene, microbiome, neuroendocrine and neuronal systems, among others. Overall what is needed is theory, research and application of social neurobiology.” (Narvaez & Witherington, 2018, pp. 210-211)
Research Publications (Narvaez & Witherington, 2018, p. 210):
(1) “Include in published articles authors’ philosophical or cultural disclosures regarding basic assumptions about humanity, much like disclosures about hypotheses and samples;
(2) Acknowledge in research participants not only WEIRDness but also “nestedness”—degree of nested experienced in childhood (Narvaez, Wang & Cheng, 2016).”
College Education (Narvaez & Witherington, 2018, p. 210):
(1) “Integrate history/systems theory into the curriculum and include a transdisciplinary focus on human sciences, including native science (Cajete, 2000);
(2) Emphasize the need to embrace the complexity of the phenomena that are studied in science rather than focusing on explaining away such complexity ….[As John Muir noted,] “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe” (Narvaez & Witherington, 2018, p. 211).”
As Narvaez & Witherington (2018) point out, providing the EDN to children is a matter of ethics—it is a matter of justice. Individuals have a birthright of a supportive development niche, or nest, to develop their full potential. This is especially important in this era when WEIRD and unnested humans have put us on the brink of global disaster.
[Communities] can embrace a human nature that lives in partnership with instead of against the natural world, one where fulfillment of human potential is an aim and not an accident….psychological science should take responsibility to understand the dynamism of human potential at every age and how best to support and promote it within a living world. Shouldn’t this be a primary professional responsibility [for everyone]?” (Narvaez & Witherington, 2018, p. 211)
Cajete, G. (2000). Native science: Natural laws of interdependence. Santa Fe: Clear Light.
Muir, J. (2011). My first summer in the Sierra. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Narvaez, D., Panksepp, J., Schore, A., & Gleason, T. (Eds.) (2013). Evolution, early experience and human development: From research to practice and policy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Narvaez, D., Wang, L, & Cheng, A. (2016). Evolved Developmental Niche History: Relation to adult psychopathology and morality. Applied Developmental Science, 20(4), 294-309. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2015.1128835
Narvaez, D., & Witherington, D. (2018). Getting to baselines for human nature, development and wellbeing.. Archives of Scientific Psychology, 6 (1), 205-213. DOI: 10.1037/arc0000053
National Workplace Breastfeeding Resources
Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law. See the Center for Worklife Law's extensive study into the limited provisions of this law.
EXPLOSED: Discrimination Against Breastfeeding Workers. This first comprehensive report on breastfeeding discrimination reveals widespread and devastating consequences for breastfeeding workers.
United States Breastfeeding Committee -See a full list of the federal law, provisions and FAQs here.
The Business Case for Breastfeeding. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HRSA). Worksite lactation support information and toolkit for employers and employees.
What Employers Need to Know – US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women’s Health
Investing In Workplace Breastfeeding Programs and Policies, from the National Business Group on Health
Paid Family Leave Resources
State of USA Today
Child mental and physical wellbeing have been on the decline for over 50 years in the USA, the wealthiest nation on earth. People under the age of 60 score at or near the bottom on multiple health indicators than citizens in 16 other advanced nations. The USA has heightening epidemics of depression, anxiety, psychosocial and health problems at all ages. Because humans are holistic creatures, attachment, sociality and moral capacities have also been declining (e.g., empathy, moral reasoning). Avoidant attachment has been increasing along with narcissism, both of which undermine social and citizenship capacities. Sociopathy has become a cultural phenomenon.
Although there are likely multiple causes, we can surely point to one basic cause with converging evidence from across the human sciences. Early life toxic stress. Recent research is tempering views that deficits from poor early care can be easily outgrown; many cannot be. In fact, an increasing amount of converging evidence across animal, human psychological, neurobiological and anthropological research demonstrates the later vulnerability of brain and body systems among those with poor early care.
What is needed for healthy child development? The evolved nest.
Converging research is demonstrating that human development is biosocial: healthy bodies, brains and sociality are formed from early experience provided by family and community. Every animal has an evolved nest (evolved developmental niche; EDN) for its young that forms part of an extra-genetic inheritance corresponding to the needs and maturational pace of offspring. Humans evolved to have the most helpless newborns and the longest maturational schedule of any animal. Human child-raising practices, rooted in social mammalian parenting over 30 million years old, evolved to accommodate these factors and were practiced for over 99% of human genus existence and still are in some indigenous cultures. The evolved nest in early life includes soothing perinatal experiences, extensive breastfeeding and positive touch, free play with multi-aged peers and nature connection. Human variations observed among hunter-gatherer societies also include positive social support for the mother-child dyad and multiple responsive adult caregivers. All these caregiving practices are correlated with health outcomes, but also with social and moral development.
Justice for Children, Societal Wellbeing
Our concern for young children and their caregivers is rooted in our concern for justice. To not receive the Evolved Developmental Niche (EDN), Evolved Nest, in early life can be perceived as an injustice to a child, with serious ramifications for the child’s future. If brain and body system thresholds are established suboptimally in early years—not by trauma, but simply by not providing care that children evolved to need, then children may not reach their potential or become cognitively and socially underdeveloped. For example, children who do not receive supportive parenting early are less likely to behave prosocially. They are more likely to be self-centered and uncooperative. While such children may sometimes function well enough as adults, holding down jobs and raising families, we are interested in caregiving environments that foster optimal development. Specifically, we are interested in the development of proactive concern for others—an orientation that includes a sense of social responsibility, global citizenship and prioritizing care for others, including the natural world.
 National Research Council (2013). U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
 e.g., UNICEF (2007). Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries, a comprehensive assessment of the lives and well-being of children and adolescents in the economically advanced nations, Report Card 7. Florence, Italy: United Nations Children’s Fund Innocenti Research Centre; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2009). Doing better for children. Paris: OECD Publishing.; Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2013), How’s Life? 2013: Measuring Well-being, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264201392-en
 e.g., Konrath, S. H., O'Brien, E. H., & Hsing, C. (2011). Changes in dispositional empathy in American college students over time: a meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15, 180-198.
 Twenge, J. & Campbell, R. (2009) The narcissism epidemic: Living in the age of entitlement. Free Press.
 Derber, C. (2013). Sociopathic society: A people’s sociology of the United States. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Press.
 Lanius, R. A., Vermetten, E., & Pain, C. (2010). The impact of early life trauma on health and disease: The hidden epidemic. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; Shonkoff, J.P., Garner, A.S. The Committee on Psychosocial Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care, and Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Dobbins, M.I., Earls, M.F., McGuinn, L., … & Wood, D.L. (2012). The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress.Pediatrics, 129, e232; Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score. New York: Penguin.
 (e.g., Karr-Morse, R., & Wiley, M.S. (2012). Scared sick: The role of childhood trauma in adult disease. New York: Basic Books.; Lupien, S.J., McEwen, B.S., Gunnar, M.R., & Heim, C. (2009). Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(6), 434-445.
 Felitti, V. J., & Anda, R. F. (2005). The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente.
 Gottlieb, G. (2002). On the epigenetic evolution of species-specific perception: The developmental manifold concept. Cognitive Development, 17, 1287–1300.; Oyama, S., Griffiths, P.E., & Gray, R.D. (2001). Cycles of contingency: Developmental systems and evolution. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
 Montagu, A. (1968). Brains, genes, culture, immaturity, and gestation. In A. Montagu (Ed.), Culture: Man’s adaptive dimension (pp. 102-113). New York: Oxford.
 Hewlett, B.S., & Lamb, M.E. (2005). Hunter-gatherer childhoods: evolutionary, developmental and cultural perspectives. New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine.
 Hrdy, S. (2009). Mothers and others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
 e.g., Narvaez, D., Wang, L., Cheng, A., Gleason, T., Woodbury, R., Kurth, A., & Lefever, J.B. (2019). The importance of early life touch for psychosocial and moral development. Psicologia: Reflexão e Crítica, 32:16 (open access). doi.org/10.1186/s41155-019-0129-0; Narvaez, D., Woodbury, R., Gleason, T., Kurth, A., Cheng, A., Wang, L., Deng, L., Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger, E., Christen, M., & Näpflin, C. (2019). Evolved Development Niche provision: Moral socialization, social maladaptation and social thriving in three countries. Sage Open, 9(2). https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244019840123l Narvaez, D., Wang, L, & Cheng, A. (2016). Evolved Developmental Niche History: Relation to adult psychopathology and morality. Applied Developmental Science, 20(4), 294-309. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2015.1128835; Narvaez, D., Gleason, T., Wang, L., Brooks, J., Lefever, J., Cheng, A., & Centers for the Prevention of Child Neglect (2013). The Evolved Development Niche: Longitudinal effects of caregiving practices on early childhood psychosocial development. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28 (4), 759–773. Doi: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2013.07.003
Narvaez, D., Wang, L., Gleason, T., Cheng, A., Lefever, J., & Deng, L. (2013). The Evolved Developmental Niche and sociomoral outcomes in Chinese three-year-olds. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 10(2), 106-127; Narvaez, D. (Ed.) (2018). Basic needs, wellbeing and morality: Fulfilling human potential. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan; Narvaez, D. (2016). Embodied morality: Protectionism, engagement and imagination. New York, NY: Palgrave-Macmillan.
 Kochanska, G. (2002). Mutually responsive orientation between mothers and their young children: A context for the early development of conscience. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 191-195.
 Sroufe, L.A., Egeland, B, Carlson, E.A., & Collins, W.A. (2008). The development of the person: The Minnesota study of risk and adaptation from birth to adulthood. New York: Guilford.