Persistent poverty, not family instability, affects kid''s cognitive development

Washington, April 21 : UK researchers has revealed that children from homes that experience persistent poverty are more likely to have their cognitive development affected than children in better off homes.

Family instability, however, makes no additional difference to how a child''s cognitive abilities have progressed by the age of five, after taking into account family poverty, family demographics (e. g. parental education and mother''s age) and early child characteristics, researchers found.

There is much evidence of the negative effects of both poverty and family structure on child development, particularly persistent poverty and adverse living conditions.

Poverty and family instability are linked as poverty affects families economically and socially and can increase the risk of relationship break-ups.

However, less is known about their relative impact on children''s cognitive functioning.

UK researchers from the Institute of Education at the University of London and the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London studied data collected for the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a survey of 18,819 babies born between September 2000 and January 2002 into 18,553 families living in the UK.

Analysis showed that there was no significant association between family structure/family instability and cognitive ability after allowing for child characteristics, family poverty and family demographics.

Overall, the researchers found there was a strong and significant negative effect of persistent income poverty on a child''s cognitive functioning at the age of five.

"Persistent poverty is a crucial risk factor undermining children''s cognitive development – more so than family instability," they concluded.

The study is detailed in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. (ANI)