Bridging the gap between research and child policy change: The role of strategic communications in policy advocacy

J Gruendel, J. Lawrence Aber

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the emerging field of child development and social policy, two of the oldest concerns involved (a) how poverty and social deprivation influences children's development and (b) how programs and policies can ameliorate the effects of poverty on children's development. Indeed, it could be argued that these twin concerns were defining features of the birth of the field. Edward F. Zigler has labored mightily to address these concerns, from his early efforts to understand the role of poverty in the development of what was then called cultural-familial retardation; to his efforts to design, implement, protect, and reform Head Start; to more recent efforts to improve early care and education and elementary schooling for children from low-income families and communities. In this chapter, as former students of Ed's who were mentored by him at three different periods over nearly a 30-year span, we describe some of the changes in the scientific and theoretical understanding of the effects of poverty on child development over the last 4 decades. In addition, we describe the evolution of program and policy efforts to protect children from the negative effects of poverty, paying particular attention to whether and how evolution in practice and policy was influenced by developments in theory and research. Where possible, we draw on Zigler's own work to support this examination. But we also extend the examination beyond his work to include critical developments in the field as a whole. Finally, we discuss the implications of these major developments over the last 40 years for future research, practice, and policy concerning poverty and child development. We begin with a brief overview of the changing definitions and understanding of poverty and social deprivation over the last several decades. We then turn to a complementary overview of changing conceptions and basic theories of the influence of poverty on child development. We conclude by discussing the implications of these changes in theories and research for the evolution of programs and policies on behalf of low-income children and their families. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationChild development and social policy
Subtitle of host publicationKnowledge for action
EditorsJ. L. Aber, S. J. Bishop-Josef, S. M. Jones, K. T. McLearn, D. A. Phillips
Place of PublicationWashington, DC, US
PublisherAPA Press
ISBN (Print)1-59147-425-6 (Hardcover); 978-1-59147-425-8 (Hardcover)
StatePublished - 2007


  • *Early Childhood Development
  • *Educational Program Planning
  • *Government Policy Making
  • *Poverty
  • Social Influences
  • Theories


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