China's childhood experiment

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Science  22 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6357, pp. 1226-1230
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6357.1226

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There is an enormous economic gap between China's booming coastal regions and its impoverished interior. And the disparity in economics is reflected in differing approaches to raising young children. The urban middle class embraces modern parenting with intense interaction between parents and children. Rural caregivers unknowingly fail to provide the intellectual and social stimulation that child development experts now believe is crucial for the healthy development of the whole child. The shortcomings are exacerbated when parents migrate away from the home for work, leaving children in the care of grandparents who have limited educations themselves and even less exposure to modern parenting. Hoping to rectify this imbalance, economist Scott Rozelle of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, is heading an experimental intervention that coaches rural mothers and grandmothers in caring for young children, especially during the first 1000 days of a child's life. Early childhood development experts believe that effective parenting in the home for children younger than 3 years old sets the stage for later educational achievement and adult health.