There is now a substantial body of evidence that highlights the importance of the early/preschool years in predicting a child's developmental trajectory and later-life outcomes. In the early years the architecture of the child's brain is being formed and is extremely sensitive to inputs from the caretaking environment. Developmental gaps open up early, are predictive of future life outcomes and are more difficult and costly to close later in life (Hart & Risley, 1995; Heckman & Lochner, 2000; Heckman, 2008). Some challenging later-life outcomes that have their roots in early childhood include poor literacy, aggressive and antisocial behaviour, mental health problems, family violence, welfare dependency, crime, obesity and substance abuse (Oberklaid, 2007). The cost to society in terms of lost productivity and attempts to ameliorate these problems is greater than the cost of early childhood intervention. Investment in early years programs that target developmentally vulnerable children and their parents or caretaker(s) is realistically estimated to return a benefit to society of as much as $4 for every $1 spent (Duncan, Lugwig, & Magnuson, 2007; Heckman & Masterov, 2007). Thus, human capital investment in the early years has been described as a win-win' policy, with no social or economic trade-off. It is described as a macro-policy that simultaneously enhances both economic competitiveness and social cohesion (Esping-Andersen, 2009; Heckman & Masterov, 2007). Adapted from the source document.
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