Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Quality of Family Context and Cognitive Development: A Cross Sectional and Longitudinal Study

Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Quality of Family Context and Cognitive Development: A Cross Sectional and Longitudinal Study

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This study analyses the relationship between psychosocial quality of family context and the cognitive development of a sample of 551 children of school age. The data were gathered at school and at home in two waves, when the children were 5 (T1) and 8 (T2) years old, respectively. In T1, three factors related to quality of family context were obtained: absence of conflict, child--family adjustment, and sociability. Two factors of cognitive development were obtained in T1 and T2. In T1, associations were found between all three factors and cognitive development. In T2, associations were found between the quality of family context and cognitive development. Cognitive development in T2 was predicted by the absence of conflict T1 factor, with a negative association. Children who were exposed to more conflicts in T1, and who scored higher on the HOME scale in T2, were found to have improved their cognitive development scores over time in comparison with their group.

Keywords: family context; cognitive development; longitudinal research

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The relationship between family context and children's cognitive development has been widely studied, measuring the effect of diverse variables such as the family's socioeconomic status, the social support received by the family during child rearing, the quality of the physical family environment and the materials provided by parents to stimulate development (Arranz et al., 2008; Wade, 2004). There is a positive close relationship between quality of family context and socioeconomic status (Bornstein & Bradley, 2003; Terrise, Roberts, Palacio-Quintin, & MacDonald, 1998). The quality of non-parental care, combined with other family context variables has also been identified as a factor that influences cognitive development (Belsky, 2006; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2005). Researchers have also found a relationship between high levels of socioeconomic status and high levels of cognitive development (Bradley & Corwyn, 2002; Normand, Baillargeon, & Brousseau, 2007). The study conducted by Lugo-Gil and Tamis LeMonda (2008) of a low income sample of 2089 children and their families, showed that parenting quality mediated the effects of family resources on children's performance at 24 and 36 months.

High scores on the HOME inventory developed by Caldwell and Bradley (1984) to assess the quality of the home environment, were associated with high scores in intelligence tests in children aged between 6 and 8 years(Baharudin & Luster, 1998) and higher levels of cognitive, linguistic, social and motor development in children aged between 4 and 6 years assessed using the Development and Maturity Inventory for Preschool Children (DMPI, Terrise, & Dansereau, 1992). High scores on the HOME scale are also associated with more advanced cognitive development in children aged between 3 and 6 years, assessed using the Stanford-Binet scale (Espy, Molfese, & Dilalla, 2001). This association was confirmed by the data obtained by the NICHD (2002), during an assessment of a group of children under the age of three years, using the Bailey Scale of Infant Development II (Bailey, 1993). In general, researchers have found a strong relationship between quality of family context and children's cognitive development (Arranz, 2005; Bradley, Corwyn, Burchinal, Pipes McAdoo & Garcia Coll, 2001; Grigorenko & Sternberg, 2001).

Other researchers have analysed the relationship between certain family context variables and specific cognitive skills: Bornstein, Haynes, Watson O'Reilly, and Painter (1996) identified symbolic play with the mother as a predictor of representational skills in 20-month-old children; Feldman and Greenbaum (1997) identified the quality and synchrony of mother-child interactions at the age of 3 and 9 months as predictors of symbolic abilities at the age of 2 years. …

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