Are ambitious children more resilient?

Can career aspirations at age seven provide valuable insights into children’s emotional state and their ability to overcome difficult family circumstances? A Centre for Longitudinal Studies working paper examines the role of young children’s career aspirations in the association between family poverty and emotional and behavioural problems.

Using data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, researchers tested a path model linking family poverty and maternal qualification to children’s emotional and behavioural problems via their career aspirations. The findings suggest that career aspirations are related to maternal qualifications but not family poverty or behavioural problems.

Family poverty is significantly associated with behavioural problems, but is moderated by career aspirations. More ambitious children from poor backgrounds are less likely to have behaviour problems than equally disadvantaged seven-year-olds who have lower career aspirations.

Source: Do primary school children’s career aspirations matter? The relationship between family poverty, career aspirations, and emotional and behavioral problems (2012), Centre for Longitudinal Studies

More evidence on persistent poverty and child outcomes

A new research paper for Policy and Politics, co-written by the Institute for Effective Education’s Kathleen Kiernan, provides further evidence that persistent poverty has a greater effect on children’s cognitive development than intermittent poverty. This article uses longitudinal data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study to examine the developmental contexts and outcomes of persistently poor children and identify potential resiliency factors.

The results show that as well as having more disadvantageous developmental contexts, persistently poor children also have worse cognitive and behavioural outcomes than children in poverty for shorter periods. The analyses point to the need for programmes that positively impact on maternal depression and the parent-child relationship which may be particularly important for improving the life chances of these very disadvantaged children.

Source: Persistent poverty and children’s development in the early years of childhood (2013), Policy and Politics, 41(1).

Persistent poverty damages young children’s cognitive development

Persistent poverty has a greater effect on children’s cognitive development than intermittent poverty, according to the latest working paper from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) at the University of London’s Institute of Education. The study, which analyses data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, shows that children born into poverty have significantly lower cognitive development test scores at ages 3, 5, and 7, and that continually living in poverty in their early years has a cumulative negative impact on their cognitive development.

The researchers looked at whether the children were in poverty at ages 9 months, 3 years, 5 years, and 7 years and then estimated the effect of poverty on the children’s scores on cognitive tests taken at ages 3, 5, and 7, which included vocabulary, pattern construction, picture recognition, and reading. For children who had been poor at only one point since birth, it was being born into poverty that had the most detrimental effects on cognitive development, whereas recent episodes of poverty had the least impact.

Source: Persistent poverty and children’s cognitive development: Evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study (2012), Institute of Education University of London

Are low and middle income children ready for school?

We see a lot of research into the school readiness of the poorest children, but what about those from low to middle income (LMI) families? The Resolution Foundation has published a new report that uses data from the Millennium Cohort Study to explore this, and found that LMI children are five months behind their more affluent peers on vocabulary skills when they begin school and exhibit more behaviour problems.

A number of factors influence attainment for this group, including parental education, a powerful predictor of the school readiness of children in this group. The challenge is how to break this cycle, and research-based parenting programmes are one possibility.

Source: On your marks: Measuring the school readiness of children in low-to-middle income families (2011), Resolution Foundation