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The Brazelton Touchpoints Center (BTC) in the Division of Developmental Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, grew out of the Child Development Unit. Founded more than 50 years ago by T. Berry Brazelton, the Child Development Unit’s research on newborn behavior, the earliest interactions, and early development laid the groundwork for the fields of infant mental health and behavioral developmental pediatrics, and for “early relational health.” This research, demonstrating the remarkable capacities of newborns and pace of early development, also was the catalyst for later infant brain imaging research on the neurobiological substrates of these extraordinary phenomena of the first months and years. 

As a clue to BTC’s continuing focus, research on early development and early interactions by Heidi Als, Berry Brazelton, Suzanne Dixon, Constance Keefer, Barry Lester, Kevin Nugent, Ed Tronick, and others involved with the Child Development Unit did not assume generalizability or universality of findings. Several of these researchers — in collaboration with cultural anthropologists such as Patricia Greenfield, and Robert and Sarah LeVine, among others — undertook cross-cultural studies of newborns, infants, and their interactions with sibling and adult caregivers. 

Among their findings: 

Newborns are primed during pregnancy for their communities, cultures, physical environments — and their relationships with their caregivers — and they shape their caregivers’ behavior just as their behavior is shaped by their caregivers. 

Among their conclusions: 

Human development is an emergent phenomenon of culturally and contextually specific complex dynamic systems — not likely to be promoted primarily by blueprints, instruction guides, or recipes, but instead by the quality of the caregiving relationships.

Find out about BTC’s culturally and contextually adapted approaches to research and evaluation with community-based organizations, nonprofit and government agencies, philanthropies, program models, sovereign Tribal nations, and more.


Research & Evaluation

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Babies and children, families and communities do the research on what it takes for them to flourish. Listen with us to what they’ve been learning. Watch a webinar. Check out the Indigenous Early Learning Collaborative. Join the Brazelton Touchpoints Center Learning Network. Join the conversation.

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