Early intervention

The argument that ‘early intervention’ in the lives of babies and young children is the most effective way to tackle social problems such as poverty, educational inequality, mental health and crime has become more and more central to policy making in the UK and elsewhere. Indeed, as we have noted in discussion of pregnancy  the imperative to ‘intervene early’ has come to strongly influence messages to parents-to-be and programmes and policies directed to them.

By following the links below you can find details of our, and others’, research work and commentary about this aspect of parenting culture.

ACEs: ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’

In December 2017, the UK House of Commons launched an Inquiry by its Science and Technology Select Committee into the evidence-base for early years intervention, with a particular focus on programmes influenced by the concept of ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ or ACEs. CPCS associates and other social policy specialists from a number of universities were concerned that the inquiry’s remit was open to considering contributions that were more circumspect about the ACEs approach. We produced a submission document and encouraged other academics to respond to it. Read full details of the submission.

Previous CPCS work on early intervention

Public discussions and conferences

Since the inception of CPCS we have organized discussions seeking to interrogate the underlying supposition of early intervention advocacy, namely that what parents do, or do not do, determines their child’s future, and also is directly responsible for the development of larger social problems. In particular, we have sought to engage the claim that such parental determinism can legitimately lay claim to a basis in scientific evidence. In June 2023 we invited Gabriel Scheidecker to discuss his work on ‘Poor brain development’ in the Global South: Challenging the science of early childhood interventions. As we discussed at our 2011 event Monitoring Parents: Science, evidence, experts and the new parenting culture  this recourse to scientised claims-making more and more makes reference to neuroscience.

Parenting Culture Studies

The theme of early intervention is discussed in our book, Parenting Culture Studies, in particular in Chapter Three, ‘The Politics of Parenting’ and in the essay ‘Babies’ Brains and Parenting Policy’.

Biologising Parenting: Neuroscience discourse and English social and public health policy

Funded by the Faraday Institute’s ‘Uses and Abuses of Biology’ funding programme, this two-year study traced and critiqued the adoption by UK policy-makers of the idea that ‘new brain research’ offers new ways of understanding how parents ought to raise their children.

Follow this link for:

  • Links to our peer reviewed publications from the project, published in Health, Risk and Society and Sociology Compass
  • A summary document of study findings
  • Resources from the dissemination event for the project, including a voice recording of the talk given by John Bruer, author of The Myth of the First Three Years
  • Links to other useful resources

Recommended related reading

Recommended related reading on early intervention