The heart of the matter: Developing the whole child through community resources and caregiver relationships

Amanda Sheffield Morris, Jennifer Hays-Grudo, Kara L. Kerr, Lana O. Beasley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Numerous developmental scholars have been influenced by the research, policies, and thinking of the late Edward Zigler, who was instrumental in founding Head Start and Early Head Start. In line with the research and advocacy work of Zigler, we discuss two models that support the development of the whole child. We begin by reviewing how adverse and protective experiences get under the skin and affect developmental trajectories and risk and resilience processes. We then present research and examples of how experiences affect the whole child, the heart and the head (social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development), and consider development within context and across domains. We discuss examples of interventions that strengthen nurturing relationships as the mechanism of change. We offer a public health perspective on promoting optimal development through nurturing relationships and access to resources during early childhood. We end with a discussion of the myth that our current society is child-focused and argue for radical, essential change to make promoting optimal development for all children the cornerstone of our society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-544
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2021


  • childhood adversity
  • parenting
  • prevention
  • protective experiences
  • resilience


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