The focus of this paper is on the earliest stages of child development, the period from conception to the end of the child’s second year. This period has become known as the first 1000 days, a catchphrase that has become the rallying point for a number of Australian and international initiatives.
First, research in this area is rapidly advancing, and our understanding of the specific mechanisms that impact upon development is becoming more and more detailed and nuanced. Keeping up with the exponential growth in research is an ongoing challenge, and regular updates such as this one are needed.
Second, the new research has revealed whole aspects of biological functioning that were not previously recognised as playing a role in development, such as telomere effects and the role of the microbiome. This review is the most comprehensive attempt yet to incorporate all known sources of influence on development, and even those well read in this area will learn from the paper.
Third, the focus of the paper is on the first 1000 days, rather than the early years in general as in most previous reviews. This is on the grounds that the first 1000 days is the period of maximum developmental plasticity, and therefore the period with the greatest potential to affect health and wellbeing over the life course.