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Issue Brief – Why Becoming a Good Parent Begins in Infancy: How Relationship Skills Are Developed throughout the Life Course

By Edward L. Schor

Abstract   Learning social skills is a cumulative, lifelong task, the consequences of which can influence subsequent generations. These skills, built on temperamental differences observable early in infancy, are manifest in all stages of life, and they can be taught and reinforced at all ages and in numerous social settings. Social skill acquisition is profoundly important in attaining personal satisfaction in relationships and achieving success in many spheres of life, including parenting.   Learning effective social skills is strongly influenced by the circumstances in which social development occurs. Professionals, who are uniquely positioned to observe and help shape relationship skills, have a special responsibility to be aware of those educational …

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Early Childhood Health and the Life Course: The State of the Science and Proposed Research Priorities

By W. Thomas Boyce and Clyde Hertzman

This is one of 26 chapters published in the Handbook of Life Course Health Development.   Abstract: This chapter begins with an assertion that, beyond the cultural traditions that affirm childhood as a period of special and lasting importance, a new science of child development reveals an influence of the early years throughout the life course. Through processes of “biological embedding,” early developmental experiences and exposures become neurobiologically instantiated in the brain and genome, thereby affecting trajectories of health and development for the remainder of life. The socioeconomic maldistribution of exposures to adversities and misfortune allots a disproportionate share of physical and mental morbidities to those growing up in conditions of …

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Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale

By Various

The 2016 Lancet Early Childhood Development Series highlights early childhood development at a time when it has been universally endorsed in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. This Series considers new scientific evidence for interventions, building on the findings and recommendations of previous Lancet Series on child development (2007, 2011), and proposes pathways for implementation of early childhood development at scale. The Series emphasises ‘nurturing care’, especially of children below three years of age, and multi-sectoral interventions starting with health, which can have wide reach to families and young children through health and nutrition.   Read full article  

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Early Developmental Conditioning of Later Health and Disease: Physiology or Pathophysiology?

By M. A. Hanson and P. D. Gluckman

Extensive experimental animal studies and epidemiological observations have shown that environmental influences during early development affect the risk of later pathophysiological processes associated with chronic, especially noncommunicable, disease (NCD). This field is recognized as the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD). We discuss the extent to which DOHaD represents the result of the physiological processes of developmental plasticity, which may have potential adverse consequences in terms of NCD risk later, or whether it is the manifestation of pathophysiological processes acting in early life but only becoming apparent as disease later. We argue that the evidence suggests the former, through the operation of conditioning processes induced across the normal range …

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Longitudinal changes in infant body composition: association with childhood obesity

By M.B. Koontz, D.D. Gunzler, L. Presley and PM Catalano

Summary   Background Rapid weight gain in infancy has been established as a risk factor for the development of later obesity.   Objective We aimed to investigate the role of changes in infant body composition (assessed via total body electrical conductivity) on the development of overweight/obesity in mid-childhood.   Methods Fifty-three term infants were evaluated at birth, three times during infancy and in mid-childhood. Logistic regression was used to determine associations between rates of total weight gain, fat mass gain and lean mass gain during infancy and later overweight/obesity (defined as body mass index [BMI] ≥85th percentile), adjusted for birth weight and parent education.   Results At follow-up (age 9.0 ± 1.8 …

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Life gets under your skin

By Mel Bartley, ed.

Great Britain has a unique collection of studies in which people have been followed from birth into early old age. There are at present four of these Birth Cohort Studies, made up of people born in 1946, 1958, 1970 and 2000. The members of the 1946 and 1958 cohorts have generously allowed researchers to take a lot of biological health measures, as well as answering questions about their families, education, work, relationships and mental health. To these studies may be added others which have not followed people from birth, but which have measured changes in life circumstances and biology over many years. This booklet summarises some of the work that …

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Long run impacts of childhood access to the safety net

By H Hoynes, D Whitmore Schanzenbach and D Almond

A growing economics literature establishes a causal link between in utero shocks and health and human capital in adulthood. Most studies rely on extreme negative shocks such as famine and pandemics. We are the first to examine the impact of a positive and policy-driven change in economic resources available in utero and during childhood. In particular, we focus on the introduction of a key element of the U.S. safety net, the Food Stamp Program, which was rolled out across counties in the U.S. between 1961 and 1975. We use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to assemble unique data linking family background and county of residence in early childhood to …

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Prenatal, perinatal, early life, and sociodemographic factors underlying racial differences in the likelihood of high body mass index in early childhood

By MM Weden MM, P Brownell P and MS Rendall

OBJECTIVES: We investigated early childhood disparities in high body mass index (BMI) between Black and White US children. METHODS: We compared differences in Black and White children’s prevalence of sociodemographic, prenatal, perinatal, and early life risk and protective factors; fit logistic regression models predicting high BMI (≥ 95th percentile) at age 4 to 5 years to 2 nationally representative samples followed from birth; and performed separate and pooled-survey estimations of these models. RESULTS: After adjustment for sample design-related variables, models predicting high BMI in the 2 samples were statistically indistinguishable. In the pooled-survey models, Black children’s odds of high BMI were 59% higher than White children’s (odds ratio [OR] = …

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Stress and the brain: how experiences and exposures across the life span shape health, development, and learning in adolescence

By Sara B. Johnson and Robert W. Blum

Recognizing the utility of a life course perspective, this special issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health examines the impact of experience in shaping brain and behavior from the prenatal period through adolescence. This issue is based on a conference, “Stress and the Brain: Implications for Health, Development and Learning,” held at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in April 2011. It was a collaboration of the Schools of Education and Public Health and was sponsored by the Carol and Eugene Ludwig Fund. The conference brought together a multidisciplinary group of experts to consider the role of stress, adversity, and experience broadly defined, during the prenatal, childhood, and …

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Exposure to violence during childhood is associated with telomere erosion from 5 to 10 years of age: a longitudinal study

By I Shalev, TE Moffitt, K Sugden, B Williams, RM Houts, A Danese, J Mill, L Arseneault and A Caspi

There is increasing interest in discovering mechanisms that mediate the effects of childhood stress on late-life disease morbidity and mortality. Previous studies have suggested one potential mechanism linking stress to cellular aging, disease and mortality in humans: telomere erosion. We examined telomere erosion in relation to children’s exposure to violence, a salient early-life stressor, which has known long-term consequences for well-being and is a major public-health and social-welfare problem. Compared with their counterparts, the children who experienced two or more kinds of violence exposure showed significantly more telomere erosion between age-5 baseline and age-10 follow-up measurements, even after adjusting for sex, socioeconomic status and body mass index. This finding provides …

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