The Place of Child Development Research in the Canadian Institute of Health Research

Background and Overview

Modern societies face difficult new challenges as they seek to cope, in the context of global economic competition, with the provision of opportunities for health and well-being of all citizens, the need to educate for new competencies in the population, as well as the maintenance of the social fabric for nurturing, socializing, and educating the next generation. As the pace of social change accelerates, it becomes increasingly important that the basic requirements for healthy human development be included in thoughtful planning. An essential component for such planning is a deeper understanding of the nature and processes of child and adolescent development. Such an understanding starts with a recognition of the fundamentally social nature of the human species, and thus the powerful impact that social environments have on human development and health. These influences are powerful throughout the life span, and particularly so during early life. In this respect, we are similar to other social primates.

Maintaining and rebuilding the social support for healthy and competent development require our sustained efforts, because the ability of individuals, populations and societies to adapt and to cope with change has become the key element of a healthy society. To meet these challenges, we need to understand more deeply how current social arrangements affect the provision of basic requirements for healthy and competent development. To accomplish this goal, we need to account for the fundamental features of child development and of human social environments, in order to understand how contemporary social structures and practices affect both individual and collective development in the context of ongoing dramatic social changes.