In our last post of 2014, we discussed the White House Summit on Early Education and how James Heckman’s brief speech produced a notable a change in the panel discussions that followed. At the time of that post I was aiming to get a copy, dear reader, so I could share his remarks with you accurately and in more detail. The speech is now available, so I think we are starting 2015 right by delving into Heckman's remarkable address.
KIPS Blog: Parenting Assessment in Practice & Research
I attended the White House Summit on Early Education virtually via web stream. As I was sitting there listening and watching, my first impression was that this was more of the same regarding the research on the importance of early parenting to children’s success. The speakers all agreed that children getting a good start is essential and recognized that one can’t start too early. But most of the conversation was about the need for greater access to quality preschool. Of course this is a great need. However, too often emphasis on the years from birth to 3 is an afterthought at best.
I started my career doing nutrition research in the laboratory of Dr. Lucille Hurley, who was famous for her work on the impact of nutritional deficiencies on development. While working with her I came to not only know the literature on how nutrient deficiencies can impair development, but saw the dramatic impact with my own eyes. Thus, the overwhelming literature showing that breastfeeding results in improved cognitive development came as no surprise. Yet, I have to admit to being surprised again by the power of parenting. A recent report concludes that the well-documented impact of breastfeeding on cognitive development is actually a proxy for parenting.
I am staggered by the weightiness of the topic of race, poverty and parenting, because its implications are incredibly important. I ask myself, ‘what lay at the heart of the matter of this conversation’? Does a propensity of research really prove that poor Black and Hispanic children experience double jeopardy because of poverty and low quality parenting. Or, is this an instance of the intersection of research and stereotypical life experiences of the poor and minority?
This will be my last post, at least for awhile. Fear not Dear Reader, Marilee Comfort will be taking a turn as editor of the KIPS Cradle Blog. Marilee has over 35 years experience in the field to share with you. This post will discuss the largest problem we collectively face. I have attempted to write this post several times, but couldn’t seem to find the right words. Though difficult, I will try to find a means of expressing this.
As an educator and a parent, I have so appreciated learning about the dimensions of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System™ (CLASS™). Having the language of the CLASS tool helped me think about teaching and learning in a new way that was liberating—it gave me the lens and vocabulary I needed to make sense of both positive and challenging moments I had experienced in the classroom. But it also gave me a new way to think about parenting and specifically my relationship with my two sons, who were teenagers when I became reliable on the Pre-K CLASS tool. It seemed to me that the behaviors of a good preschool teacher and parent are similar, so I was encouraged to find that in many ways the Keys to Interactive Parenting Scale (KIPS) resembles the Toddler and Pre-K CLASS tools.
Fifty years ago this week in his State of the Union address, the New President, Lyndon Johnson declared War on Poverty. As I write this the press and politicians are abuzz debating “America’s Longest War.” We can all agree that this long war has not been won. For a timeline showing the many battles and skirmishes in this war on poverty follow this link.
A large longitudinal study conducted by a team at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina shows that for rural low-income families, cumulative risk factors can negatively affect parenting quality and child development, learning and behavior. This study is important because nearly 20% of children in United States families are located in rural communities and rural families are understudied. The Family Life Project followed 1292 children from low-income rural families over a 10-year period, and the results have been published as a monograph (The Family Life Project: An Epidemiological and Developmental Study of Young Children Living in Poor Rural Communities (2013). Lynne Vernon-Feagans, Martha Cox, and The Family Life Project Key Investigators, Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, Volume 78, Issue 5, Pages vii–vii, 1–150.)
Parents with current and past adversity may end up parenting in a way that poses a threat to the baby; this refers to all forms of maltreatment, and in turn the baby's entire neuro-hormonal system will adapt to its emotional environment creating structures and responses that become the foundation for future development. Thus, “From a basic biological perspective, the child’s neuronal system – the structure and functioning of the developing brain – is shaped by the parent’s more mature brain” (Siegal, 1999:278). Through early detection and intervention we can repair relationships and support parents in nurturing their children to promote healthy neurobiological development.
Since we are in between Halloween, when we give our children copious amounts of candy, and Thanksgiving, the national massive feast day in the U.S., childhood obesity comes to mind. This might be an ideal time to review a fascinating study revealing a link between parenting quality and obesity. First, some background on childhood obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence of obesity has doubled for children, and tripled for adolescents in the last 30 years. Currently, about a third of children are overweight or obese. Obese children have a strong tendency to become obese adults. Obesity has health, economic, and psychosocial consequences. Treating obesity is difficult, with low success rates, so prevention is our best route. Certainly, there is a strong genetic component in obesity. However, the rapid increase in the prevalence of obesity cannot be explained by genetic changes in our population.