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Posted September, 2005

Relations of Family Poverty to Problems Reported by
Parents and Teachers for Ages 2 to 8.5 Years

The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) has yielded many findings on factors affecting children's development. These findings include relations between poverty and both cognitive development and behavioral/emotional problems from age 2 to third grade when the children averaged 8.5 years of age. Based on a ratio of family income to the poverty threshold, families were identified as: (a) never poor from the time the children were 6 months old through third grade; (b) poor when the children were 6 through 36 months old; (c) poor when the children were 54 months old through third grade; or (d) poor during both the early and later periods from 6 months through third grade. From age 2 to 8.5 years, children whose families were never poor had higher cognitive scores and lower CBCL and TRF Internalizing and Externalizing scores than children whose families were poor across the whole period. Cognitive scores were similar for children whose families were poor during either the early or later periods, and both these groups obtained scores between those obtained by children whose families were never poor or were continuously poor. However, children whose families were poor only during the later period tended to have higher problem scores than children whose families were poor only during the earlier period. Low maternal education, mother living without a partner, and maternal depressive symptoms were found to be significant mediators of the group differences in problem scores. In other words, these mediators accounted for much of the association between poverty and problem scores. The authors concluded that "early transitory poverty seems less detrimental to children's cognitive and social development then long-term or concurrent poverty . . . The finding of higher behavioral problems in the late-poor group is consistent with studies showing that changes in economic conditions lead to increased behavior problems among young children" (p. 806).

Reference: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research network. (2005). Duration and developmental timing of poverty and children's cognitive and social development from birth through third grade. Child Development, 76, 795-810.


Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Achenbach