Last week San Antonio welcomed two distinguished speakers I had the privilege to hear.
Thanks to Trinity University and Trinity University Press, I watched the livestream of Jane Goodall speaking to a packed auditorium on its campus. With an understated voice, Goodall gave powerful testimony to her impressive career as primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, environmentalist and activist. She attributed her success to her mother’s nurturing environment and steady encouragement to “follow her dream.”
On the heels of that testimony, I attended the 17th Congress on Children, hosted by Voices for Children San Antonio. Keynote speaker, Anthony Biglan, PhD, a research scientist with the Oregon Research Institute, gave the presentation “Evolving More Nurturing Societies” based on his book “The Nurture Effect."
You can replay both events right here:
Speaking from the middle of the room, Biglan deftly covered the scientifically backed evidence about how nurturing environments can increase children’s well-being in virtually every aspect of our society. It is difficult to compress the large amount of thought-provoking information contained in Biglan’s hour and a half presentation.
These are some points that stood out to me:
- By 2009, the US had the highest rate of income inequality among 20 developed countries. Biglan quoted from Robert Putnam’s book “Our Kids:” Over the past 50 years, America has become far less nurturing of those who are poorer. Economic inequality and poverty have increased greatly. Social Mobility—the chance that a poor child will move out of poverty—has virtually disappeared.
- We are experiencing a waning of economic policy support for programs that address the well-being of vulnerable families. Slide #23 shows the vicious cycle and the erosion of communitarian values.
So what can we do to bring about positive changes for children and families in a faltering environment?
Biglan’s presentation gave several excellent examples of programs that work well to promote, encourage and assist families in creating a nurturing, supportive environment.
- Interventions from prior to conception to young adulthood can have long lasting benefits.
- Increased collaborations between organizations that offer family and children’s programs.
- Promoting and practicing pro-sociality - “A constellation of behaviors, values and attitudes that involve cooperating with others, working for the well-being of others, sacrificing for others and fostering self-development.”
As individuals, we can find policy change advocacy groups with which to work.
Start talking to your state and national representatives.
Ultimately, we are all affected by what happens to others in our community.