SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE WELCOME LETTER

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Dear Colleagues,

the 16th World Congress of the WAIMH in Rome 2018 has its theme on the interplay between nature and nurture. This dilemma is not quite as ancient as the city of Rome, but it has been an intriguing question for clinicians and researchers for quite a while. We have been asked why we should wish to raise this old theme to the centre again. The answer is really quite simple. Our world has always been constantly changing, but perhaps never before has the rate of change been so fast. The big question is how do we adapt to rapid changes, and even more specifically how do these changes affect our children and their children. Particularly some of the new and constantly developing technology we are using hold great promises, but at the same time also threat. Sometimes changes in our societies result in situations where it is clear that infants, toddlers and their families may suffer, and thanks to the our smart phones, internet and social media, we also know of the suffering worldwide almost instantly and almost regardless of where it is happening. In a way one could also argue that Rome is just the right place of discussing the effects of changing environment on human development as ancient Romans built the fastest “network” of their time with their roads reaching across their realm and providing a faster way of spreading news.

This time our congress plenaries will address both old and new aspects of nature-nurture interplay. Our plenarists for Rome 2018 include Professor Massimo Ammaniti (Italy) Professor Jay Belsky (USA), Professor Hasse Karlsson (Finland) and Professor Jenny Radesky (USA). The plenaries present new data on issues that have been under study for a long time, like prenatal stress and its effect on both the mother and the developing infant; how the use of smartphones, tablets and computers will affect child development during the early years; and, how our individual characteristics can affect our susceptibility to different environmental stressors. We have not forgotten the global changes in climate and world politics, as the Presidential Symposium will address the crisis facing refugee infants and their families in so many countries around the world.

As a novelty for this Congress we have created two Plenary Interfaces of Research and Clinical Work, where a researcher and a clinician will present on the same subject and, with the help from a moderator, will create an interesting discussion. One these interfaces will address prenatal stress and another will discuss how fathers influence the development of theirs sons.

Our committee again proposes a range of ways in which you may be able to present your research with infants and families, your clinical work and other innovations. We are keen to hear from as many of you as possible and to facilitate lively, and collegial exchange of ideas. Based on the feedback from the previous Congress we have also tried to provide better structures for both clinical and scientific abstract submissions. So please, do feel welcome to submit your work to the 16th World Congress in Rome 2018 to be shared with your colleagues worldwide.

Over the next months we will provide regular updates about the Congress and the plenary keynote speakers and of the Invited Symposia. We look forward to seeing you in 2018, and as our President quoted in his welcome address: all roads lead to Rome!