A Biopsychosocial Framework for Understanding the Impact of Early Childhood Neglect and Abuse

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The aim of this workshop is to bring together a multidisciplinary team of Australian and international  experts in the field of normal and abnormal child development.  We will leverage the expertise of this group to build robust cross-discipline collaborations to develop knowledge, which can be translated into practice in the field of early child development to improve child outcomes.

Growing research has established the unique resilience and vulnerability of of early childhood for healthy development. Threats to healthy development are numerous, and span multiple domains from health to cognitive development, to menatl health and quality of life. To date these threats have been explored largely within disciplines (e.g, neuroscience, psychology, sociology).  To maximise our understanding of the breadth of this field, it is now time to integrate this cross-discipline evidence and expertise for the best outcomes of children, and for the benefit of the community. The key aim of this application is to bring together a multidisciplinary team of Australian and international experts in the field of normal and abnormal child development to share knowledge and challenges and to work towards a unified strategy for advocating for the importance of prevention and early intervention.  Specifically, the propsoed workshop will:

i)             Critique current evidence in early childhood development and the impact of environmental toxins (e.g., neglect, abuse, illness) and transgenerational influences

ii)            Develop a common terminology for the field

iii)           Build collaborations and establish a world class, multidisciplinary program of research in the field

iv)           Explore the potential for translation of evidence into practice

v)            Construct a blueprint for advocacy in early childhood

vi)           Produce an edited text, including input from workshop contributors which articulates the state of the field, the evidence gaps and approaches to implementation of evidence-based practice and community-based advocacy for an increased focus on early childhood.

 

It is well established that infancy and early childhood are critical periods for growth and learning.  We also know that disruption during this stage of development can have devastating efects on later abilities and quality of life. The role of environment, and envoronmental toxins (e.g., abuse, neglect, illness) in particular, has received relatively less attention until recently. With advances in neuroimaging and genetics, we now have the tools necessary to explore potential biological mechanisms associated with these environmental toxins.  The challenge is to integrate this ‘biological knowledge’ with evidence from the related field of child development, education and mental health. In order to achieve this, we need to build robust cross-discipline collaborations which will lead to combined knowledge, which can then be translated into practice in the field of early child development to improve child outcomes.

 

The broad aim of the proposed workshop is to bring together key Australian and international researchers with expertise in environmental impacts on normal and abnormal child development across multiple scientific and applied disciplines and community and government policy makers. The program is constructed around a ‘biopsychosocial framework’ consistent with recent advances in the field. Specifically, the expert group will be tasked with:

i)  Critiquing the evidence: critically appraising the current state of the art in the field, through consideration of presentations by speakers across the biological and psychosocial dimensions;

ii)  Developing a common terminology: constructing an integrated, cross-discipline language to further knowledge;

iii) Building collaborations and establishing a world class, multidisciplinary program of research in the field

iv) Exploring the potential for translation of evidence into practice: what are the barriers and challenges of knowledge translation in the early childhood field;

v) Constructing a blueprint for advocacy in early childhood: formulating a message to share with key stakeholders, particularly government.

vi) Produce an edited text, including input from workshop contributors which articulates the state of the field, the evidence gaps and approaches to implementation of evidence-based practice and community-based advocacy for an increased focus on early childhood.

In order to achieve these aims, we have designed a two day program which is divided into 4 key sessions, which work from basic theoretical principles in developmental and social neuroscience, child development and mental health, through examples of disruptions to early development (e.g., autistic spectrum disorder, environmental deprivation) and on to a discussion of targets for universal dfamily support and prevention and treatment of mental health problems for vulnerable children and families.  Our final session is practically focussed, and will highlight the work of the US Frameworks team to assist us in developing a palatable message to take to the community.

The workshop, ‘A biopsychosocial framework for understanding the impact of early childhood neglect and abuse,’ begins by exploring the biological underpinnings of both normal early childhood development  This session will provide an overview of the substrates of normal development, including neuroimaging and biological markers, and then explore the evidence that both pre-conception parent

lifestyle and early deprivation and maltreatment can permanently disrupt these processes. Session 2 considers key environmental mechanisms underpinning normal and abnormal child development, including the importance of developing strong attachment and the impact of toxic stress. Session 3 provides an overview of evidence-based interventions for the prevention and treatment of infant and early childhood mental health problems.  A range of approaches will be covered including universal psycho-education using internet technology, child-specific interventions, family approaches and parenting methods. The goal of the final session is to summarise the content of sessions 1-3, reflect on the current landscape for infant and child mental health in Australia, and explore approaches to packaging the message to key stakeholders.

For more information, please contact:
Mr Murray Radcliffe
Deputy Director
murray.radcliffe [at] assa.edu.au
+61 .2 62491788

Event Schedule

Contact Information

Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

    ABN: 59 957 839 703
  • Location: 26 Balmain Crescent, Acton, ACT 2601
  • Postal: GPO Box 1956, Canberra, ACT 2601
  • +61 .2 62491788
  • +61 .2 62474335
  • secretariat@assa.edu.au

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