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Examining the role of the law in early childhood development is not new; several legal scholars have engaged in such an inquiry, including scholars at this symposium. But this engagement has not led to a sustained debate about how the legal system can foster early childhood development, nor has it yet led to the integration of legal scholars into the interdisciplinary research on, and policy debates about, early childhood. I have argued that the creation of a new subdiscipline in family law — early childhood development and the law — would achieve these goals, sparking debate within law, bringing a legal perspective to interdisciplinary research, and involving legal scholars in policy debates about supporting early childhood development. As I elaborate below, this symposium and the preceding national summit are promising steps in the creation of this new subdiscipline, highlighting the theoretical and practical benefits of this focused inquiry and generating a research agenda. Drawing on this momentum, this essay also identifies the next steps for building the subdiscipline, with the ultimate goal of reorienting the legal system to nurture early childhood development.


Early Childhood Education | Family Law | Law