Socioeconomic disadvantage affects child development. Persistent poverty has more detrimental effects on socio-emotional functioning, cognitive functioning, and academic achievement than transitory poverty. Research on the effects of poverty suggests that the timing and duration of poverty has significant impact on children's academic achievement. The impact of poverty is complex and transacts across multiple contexts including family, home, neighborhood, and school. It is important to understand the influence of one context on another in order to identify strategies to counteract the adverse effects of disadvantage. Research examining the link between child development and these factors is critical because this understanding is needed to inform policy development and social, educational, and health services.
A major concern of existing studies are the inconsistent results regarding income effects, either due to design or measurement issues based on the construct of poverty, inclusion of social and environmental variables, or lack a longitudinal design to capture the effect of poverty over time on academic achievement. There are also inconsistent findings from well designed studies regarding the magnitude, if any, on the effect of poverty on academic achievement. Income and other highly intercorrelated aspects of socioeconomic status (maternal education, home learning resources, parental interaction, neighborhood influences, school environment, and biological determinants) need to be controlled in order to understand the separate contribution of each. Second, it is important to understand whether supportive parenting moderates the influences of early childhood disadvantage on subsequent academic outcomes.
This study is a secondary analysis of existing data from the control group from The New Mothers Study, which is a longitudinal, randomized, controlled trial for low-income families raising young children in Memphis, Tennessee. The overall aim of this secondary data analysis is to examine the role of supportive parenting in the context of the effect of early childhood poverty, children's home environment, neighborhood, and school on academic achievement, using a bioecological model. Specifically, this study examines the following relationships controlling for maternal and child biological determinants of cognitive ability, (1) the impact of the duration and severity of early childhood poverty on academic achievement at the third year of school, (2) the role of neighborhood, family/home, and school in mediating the effects of early childhood poverty on academic achievement, and (3) the effect of supportive parenting on moderating the relationship between neighborhood, family/home, and schools on academic achievement.
This analysis explained 26.3% of the variance associated with levels of academic achievement. Controlling for maternal and child IQ, none of the predictors for income, neighborhood, family/home, school, or supportive parenting had a direct effect on levels of academic achievement. Three explanations are possible for the findings: (1) the restricted range of values from this impoverished sample affected statistical analysis, (2) child IQ is not an exogenous variable and child intellectual ability is mediated by social influences, and (3) there is a reverse causal relationship between biological determinants and poverty on academic achievement. The predictive influence of child IQ negated the influence of other variables in the model on academic achievement. Additional research is indicated to investigate whether child IQ is an endogenous variable rather than an exogenous variable. Most of the studies in the literature do not control for child IQ when examining the influence of early childhood poverty on academic achievement. Few studies are longitudinal, even fewer examine the impact of poverty from birth to elementary school, and rare if any, control for child IQ. Do environmental influences such as family/home environment predict child IQ scores?