Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships

Harvard University, Center on the Developing Child

Stress, Resilience, Social Policy, Brain Architecture, Serve and Return

Harvard Center on the Developing Child, December 2009

Healthy development depends on the quality and reliability of a young child’s relationships with the important people in his or her life, both within and outside the family. Even the development of a child’s brain architecture depends on the establishment of these relationships. Growth-promoting relationships are based on the child’s continuous give and take (“serve and return” interaction) with a human partner who provides what nothing else in the world can offer – experiences that are individualized to the child’s unique personality; that build on his or her own interests, capabilities, and initiative; that shape the child’s self-awareness; and that stimulate the growth of his or her heart and mind.