Parental involvement is effective in improving lower-income preschoolers’ cognitive development, according to a study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. This is yet another study showing that helping parents help their kids is effective, whereas gold-standard studies find government preschool programs fail to achieve long-term improvements in children’s achievement.
The paper, “Family-based training program improves brain function, cognition, and behavior in lower socioeconomic status preschoolers,” was coauthored by seven Oregon-based psychologists from the University of Oregon and Willamette University. In their paper, the authors observe, “[T]he study is unique in engaging the larger family context, as well as direct child training, to support the development of selective attention.”
The authors conducted an eight-week study of 141 Head Start students from families at or below the national poverty level. Data from the program, dubbed Parents and Children Making Connections—Highlighting Attention (PCMC-A), led the psychologists to conclude parent involvement in their kids’ early education reduces parent stress and increases student cognition compared to a control group without a parental component.
‘Parents Engaging Child Development’
The authors state the study “underscore[s] the importance of engaging parents to support child development.”
They conclude, “[T]he study provides a comprehensive picture of the changes resulting from a family-based training model, including not only gains for children in a direct neural measure of selective attention but also specific skills assessed by standardized tests, parent reports of child behavior, and parent behaviors and parenting stress levels.”
The appropriate response should be to boost families, rather than large government programs “in an effort to replicate the findings of a small group of students,” said Lindsey Burke, Will Skillman Fellow in Education at the Heritage Foundation. “We’ve seen the documented failed outcomes of the federal government’s largest preschool intervention—the Head Start program. The authors’ findings might be useful for center-based care programs at the local level but should not be interpreted to further a federal preschool agenda,” she said.
“Family-based training program improves brain function, cognition, and behavior in lower socioeconomic status preschoolers,” The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: http://www.pnas.org/content/110/29/12138.full
Image by Evan Long.