Studies of socioeconomic gradients in mortality in wealthy societies reveal that they have been persist, and included most of the principal causes of death, even during the era when these principal causes of death have entirely changed. This observation has led to an interest in the ways in which the diversity of conditions of life, unfolding over the life cycle, can become embedded in human biology and subsequently affect health status and vitality. There is evidence that childhood experiences affect subsequent health status (as well as well-being and competence) in profound and long-lasting ways. Conflicting explanatory models of the impact of childhood experiences have been advanced, whose conflicts are political in nature, in that the reflect divergent beliefs about how human potential expresses itself, and, also, about the nature of the obligations which members of society have to one another. Notwithstanding these conflicts, a body of evidence derived from intervention studies in the post-neonatal, preschool, and school age periods suggest that performance in two basic domains of child development, the cognitive and the social-emotional, can be modified in ways which improve health, well-being, and competence in the long-term.