Child hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity was investigated as a moderator of parental depressive symptom effects on child behavior in an adoption sample ( n =210 families). Adoptive parents’ depressive symptoms and child internalizing and externalizing were assessed at 18, 27, and 54 months, and child morning and evening HPA activity measured through salivary cortisol at 54 months. Children’s daily cortisol levels and day-to-day variability were tested as moderators of longitudinal associations between parent and child symptoms at within- and between-family levels. Mothers’ symptoms related directly to child internalizing, but child evening cortisol moderated effects of fathers’ symptoms on internalizing, and of both parents’ symptoms on externalizing. Different paths of within-family risk dynamics vs. between-family risk synergy were found for internalizing vs. externalizing outcomes.
Parental involvement and communication are essential for language development in young children. However, hearing parents of deaf children face challenges in providing language input to their children. This study utilized the largest national sample of deaf children receiving cochlear implants, with the aim of identifying effective facilitative language techniques. Ninety-three deaf children (≤ 2 years) were assessed at six implant centers prior to and for three years following implantation. All parent-child interactions were videotaped, transcribed and coded at each assessment. Analyses using bivariate latent difference score modeling indicated that higher versus lower-level strategies predicted growth in expressive language and word types predicted growth in receptive language over time. These effective, higher-level strategies could be used in early intervention programs.
Executive control (EC) is related to mathematics performance in middle childhood. However, little is known regarding how EC and informal numeracy differentially support mathematics skill acquisition in preschoolers. A sample of preschoolers (115 girls, 113 boys), stratified by social risk, completed an EC task battery at 3 years, informal numeracy assessments at 3.75 and 4.5 years, and a broad mathematics assessment during kindergarten. Strong associations were observed between latent EC at 3 and mathematics achievement in kindergarten, which remained robust after accounting for earlier informal numeracy, socio-economic status, language and processing speed. Relations between EC and mathematics achievement were stronger in girls than boys. Findings highlight the unique role of EC in predicting which children may have difficulty transitioning to formal mathematics instruction.
Executive function; academic achievement; mathematics; gender; preschool
The role of adolescents’ disclosure to their parents in their academic adjustment was examined in a study of 825 American and Chinese adolescents (mean age = 12.73 years). Four times over the seventh and eighth grades, adolescents reported on their spontaneous disclosure of everyday activities to their parents, the quality of their relationships with their parents, and their parents’ autonomy support and control. Information about multiple dimensions of adolescents’ academic adjustment (e.g., learning strategies, autonomous vs. controlled motivation, and grades) was also obtained. Both American and Chinese adolescents’ disclosure predicted their enhanced academic adjustment over time. However, when American adolescents disclosed in a negative context (e.g., a poor parent-child relationship or controlling parenting), their autonomous (vs. controlled) motivation was undermined.
Achievement; disclosure; motivation; parent-child relationships; parenting
Two experiments investigated response tendencies of preschoolers toward yes-no questions about actions. Two hundred 2- to 5-year-old children were asked questions concerning actions commonly associated with particular objects (e.g., drinking from a cup) and actions not commonly associated with particular objects (e.g., kicking a toothbrush). The impact of delay and comprehension of questions were also investigated. Results revealed a consistent developmental transition: Younger children tended to display a yes bias while older children did not display a bias unless they faced incomprehensible questions, in which case they displayed a nay-saying bias. Delay shifted children’s responses in such a way that “no” answers were given more often. These findings hold important implications regarding the use of yes-no questions with children.
children; yes-no questions; response bias
This study examined whether poor pointing gestures and imitative actions at 18 months of age uniquely predicted late language production at 36 months, beyond the role of poor language at 18 months of age. Data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study were utilized. Maternal reports of the children’s nonverbal skills and language were gathered for 42,517 children aged 18 months and for 28,107 of the same children at 36 months. Panel analysis of latent variables revealed that imitative actions, language comprehension, and language production uniquely contributed to predicting late development of language production, while pointing gestures did not. It is suggested that the results can be explained by underlying symbolic representational skills at 18 months.
The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study; pointing gestures; imitative actions; language comprehension; language production
Three waves of data from a prospective longitudinal study in Sierra Leone were used to examine internalizing trajectories in 529 war-affected youth (ages 10-17 at baseline; 25% female). Latent class growth analyses identified four trajectories: a large majority of youth maintained lower levels of internalizing problems (41.4%) or significantly improved over time (47.6%) despite very limited access to care; but smaller proportions continued to report severe difficulties six years post-war (4.5%) or their symptoms worsened (6.4%). Continued internalizing problems were associated with loss of a caregiver, family abuse and neglect, and community stigma. Despite the comparative resilience of most war-affected youth in the face of extreme adversity, there remains a compelling need for interventions that address family- and community-level stressors.
War; children; Africa; adolescents and youth; child soldiers; resilience; mental health; internalizing problems
The longitudinal contributions of emotion regulation and emotion lability/negativity to internalizing symptomatology were examined in a low-income sample (171 maltreated and 151 nonmaltreated children, from age 7 to 10 years). Latent difference score models indicated that, for both maltreated and nonmaltreated children, emotion regulation was a mediator between emotion lability/negativity and internalizing symptomatology, whereas emotion lability/negativity was not a mediator between emotion regulation and internalizing symptomatology. Early maltreatment was associated with high emotion lability/negativity (age 7) that contributed to poor emotion regulation (age 8), which in turn was predictive of increases in internalizing symptomatology (from age 8 to 9). The results imply important roles of emotion regulation in the development of internalizing symptomatology, especially for children with high emotion lability/negativity.
emotion regulation; emotion lability/negativity; child maltreatment; internalizing symptomatology; latent difference score
Studies of adolescent or parent-based twins suggest that gene–environment correlation (rGE) is an important mechanism underlying parent–adolescent relationships. However, information on how parents′ and children’s genes and environments influence correlated parent and child behaviors is needed to distinguish types of rGE. The present study used the novel Extended Children of Twins model to distinguish types of rGE underlying associations between negative parenting and adolescent (age 11–22 years) externalizing problems with a Swedish sample of 909 twin parents and their adolescent offspring and a U.S.-based sample of 405 adolescent siblings and their parents. Results suggest that evocative rGE, not passive rGE or direct environmental effects of parenting on adolescent externalizing, explains associations between maternal and paternal negativity and adolescent externalizing problems.
Prior research suggests that infantś action production affects their action understanding, but little is known about the aspects of motor experience that render these effects. In Study 1, the relative contributions of self-produced (n = 30) and observational (n = 30) action experience on 3-month-old infants’ action understanding was assessed using a visual habituation paradigm. In Study 2, generalization of training to a new context was examined (n = 30). Results revealed a unique effect of active over observational experience. Further, findings suggest that benefits of trained actions do not generalize broadly, at least following brief training.
The development of reading skills in typical students is commonly described as a rapid growth across early grades of active reading education, with a slowing down of growth as active instruction tapers. This study examined the extent to which genetics and environments influence these growth rates. Participants were 371 twin pairs, aged approximately 6 through 12, from the Western Reserve Reading Project. Development of word-level reading, reading comprehension, and rapid naming was examined using genetically sensitive latent quadratic growth curve modeling. Results confirmed the developmental trajectory described in the phenotypic literature. Furthermore, the same shared environmental influences were related to early reading skills and subsequent growth, but genetic influences on these factors were unique.
In acquiring language, babies learn not only that people can communicate about objects and events, but also that they typically use a particular kind of act as the communicative signal. The current studies asked whether 1-year-olds’ learning of names during joint attention is guided by the expectation that names will be in the form of spoken words. In the first study, 13-month-olds were introduced to either a novel word or a novel sound-producing action (using a small noisemaker). Both the word and the sound were produced by a researcher as she showed the baby a new toy during a joint attention episode. The baby’s memory for the link between the word or sound and the object was tested in a multiple choice procedure. Thirteen-month-olds learned both the word–object and sound–object correspondences, as evidenced by their choosing the target reliably in response to hearing the word or sound on test trials, but not on control trials when no word or sound was present. In the second study, 13-month-olds, but not 20-month-olds, learned a new sound–object correspondence. These results indicate that infants initially accept a broad range of signals in communicative contexts and narrow the range with development.
Chromosomal microarray analysis (CMA) has emerged as a powerful new tool to identify genomic abnormalities associated with a wide range of developmental disabilities including congenital malformations, cognitive impairment, and behavioral abnormalities. CMA includes array comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays, both of which are useful for detection of genomic copy number variants (CNV) such as microdeletions and microduplications. The frequency of disease-causing CNVs is highest (20%–25%) in children with moderate to severe intellectual disability accompanied by malformations or dysmorphic features. Disease-causing CNVs are found in 5%–10% of cases of autism, being more frequent in severe phenotypes. CMA has replaced Giemsa-banded karyotype as the first-tier test for genetic evaluation of children with developmental and behavioral disabilities.
In the world, the manners and paths of motion events take place together, but in language, these features are expressed separately. How do infants learn to process motion events in linguistically appropriate ways? Forty-six English-learning 7- to 9-month-olds were habituated to a motion event in which a character performed both a manner and a path, and then tested on events that changed the manner, path, both, or neither. Infants detected each type of change, but only the girls showed evidence of processing manner and path as independent features. This gender difference provides clues about the universal development of manner and path concepts from more basic perceptual skills. Results have implications for how representations of linguistically relevant semantic elements develop conceptually.
event processing; manner and path; language precursors; concept development
Numerous studies over the past decade support the claim that infants are equipped with powerful statistical language learning mechanisms. The primary evidence for statistical language learning in word segmentation comes from studies using artificial languages, continuous streams of synthesized syllables that are highly simplified relative to real speech. To what extent can these conclusions be scaled up to natural language learning? In the current experiments, English-learning 8-month-old infants’ ability to track transitional probabilities in fluent infant-directed Italian speech was tested (N = 72). The results suggest that infants are sensitive to transitional probability cues in unfamiliar natural language stimuli, and support the claim that statistical learning is sufficiently robust to support aspects of real-world language acquisition.
Changes in the patterning of adolescents' beliefs about the legitimate domains of parental authority were modeled in 2,611 Chilean adolescents, 11–16 years old. Transitions in adolescents' belief patterns were studied over 3 years. Latent transition analysis (LTA) revealed 3 distinct patterns of beliefs—parent control, shared control, and personal control—that differed in the extent to which adolescents believed that parents had legitimate authority over personal, prudential, and multidomain issues. Younger adolescents with fewer problem behaviors, higher self-efficacy, and more parental rules were more likely to espouse the parent control belief pattern. Adolescents' patterning of beliefs was relatively stable over time. Older adolescents with more problem behaviors and fewer parental rules were most likely to move away from the parental control status.
Fifteen-year-old adolescents (N=109) in a longitudinal study of child development were recruited to examine differences in DNA methylation in relation to parent reports of adversity during the adolescents’ infancy and preschool periods. Microarray technology applied to 28,000 cytosine-guanine dinucleotide (CpG) sites within DNA derived from buccal epithelial cells showed differential methylation among adolescents whose parents reported high levels of stress during their children’s early lives. Maternal stressors in infancy and paternal stressors in the preschool years were most strongly predictive of differential methylation, and the patterning of such epigenetic marks varied by children’s gender. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first report of prospective associations between adversities in early childhood and the epigenetic conformation of adolescents’ genomic DNA.
epigenetics; DNA methylation; parental stress; stress exposure; infancy; preschool; adolescence
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are pervasive neurodevelopmental disorders that affect an estimated 1 in 110 individuals. Although there is a strong genetic component associated with these disorders, this review focuses on the multi-factorial nature of ASD and how different genome-wide (genomic) approaches contribute to our understanding of autism. Emphasis is placed on the need to study defined ASD phenotypes as well as to integrate large-scale ‘omics’ data in order to develop a “systems level” perspective of ASD which, in turn, is necessary to allow predictions regarding responses to specific perturbations and interventions.
Grounded in Person-Environment Fit Theory, this study examined whether low-income mothers' preferences for education moderated the effects of employment- and education-focused welfare programs on children's positive and problem behaviors. The sample included 1,365 families with children between ages 3 and 5 at study entry. Results 5 years after random assignment, when children were ages 8 to 10, indicated that mothers' education preferences did moderate program impacts on teacher-reported child behavior problems and positive behavior. Children whose mothers were assigned to the education program were rated by teachers to have less externalizing behavior and more positive behavior than children whose mothers were assigned to the employment program, but only when mothers had strong preferences for education.
Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological model proposes that events in higher-order social ecosystems should influence human development through their impact on events in lower-order social ecosystems. This proposition was tested with respect to ecological violence and the development of children’s aggression via analyses of three waves of data (one wave yearly for three years) from three age cohorts (starting ages 8, 11, and 14) representing three populations in the Middle East: Palestinians (N = 600), Israeli Jews (N = 451), and Israeli Arabs (N = 450). Results supported a hypothesized model in which ethno-political violence increases community, family, and school violence and children’s aggression. Findings are discussed with respect to ecological and observational learning perspectives on the development of aggressive behavior.
Infants require locomotor experience to behave adaptively at a drop-off. However, different experimental paradigms (visual cliff and actual gaps and slopes) have generated conflicting findings regarding what infants learn and the specificity of their learning. An actual, adjustable drop-off apparatus was used to investigate whether learning to distinguish a step from a cliff transfers from crawling to walking. Experienced 12-month-old crawlers (n=16) refused to crawl over risky drop-offs but novice 12-month-old walkers (n=17) stepped repeatedly over the edge. Experienced 18-month-old walkers (n=18) refused to walk over risky drop-offs, but descended using alternative methods. These findings suggest that infants do not acquire generalized responses like fear or wariness of heights. Rather, infants learn to perceive affordances for the experienced action.
The effects of geographic variations in cost of living and family income on children’s academic achievement and social competence in first grade (mean age=86.9 months) were examined, mediated through material hardship, parental investments, family stress, and school resources. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K; N = 17,565), higher cost of living was associated with lower academic achievement. For poor children only, higher cost of living was also detrimental to parental investments and school resources. Parental investments and school resources were more strongly associated with achievement for lower-income than higher-income children. Results suggest that cost of living intersects with income in meaningful ways for family and child well-being and should be accounted for in the poverty measure.
geographic variations in cost of living; family income; achievement; social competence; parental investments; family stress; school resources; poverty measurement
This study examined whether children’s difficulties with stage-salient tasks served as an explanatory mechanism in the pathway between their insecurity in the interparental relationship and their disruptive behavior problems. Using a multi-method, multi-informant design, 201 two-year-old children and their mothers participated in three annual measurement occasions. SEM analyses indicated that coder ratings of children’s insecure responses to interparental conflict from a maternal interview predicted observer ratings of their difficulties with stage-salient tasks (i.e., emotion regulation, autonomy, resourceful problem-solving) one year later after controlling for initial stage-salient task performance. Stage-salient task difficulties, in turn, predicted experimenter reports of children’s behavior problems one year later. Associations remained robust in the broader context of other pathways hypothesized in prevailing developmental cascade models.
Dynamic relations during the preschool years across processes of control and understanding in the domains of emotion and cognition were examined. Participants were 263 children (42% non-white) and their mothers who were seen first when the children were 3 years old and again when they were 4. Results indicated dynamic dependence among the processes studied. Specifically, change in cognitive processes of control and understanding were dependent upon initial levels of the other processes. Changes in emotion control and understanding were not predicted by earlier performance in the other processes. Findings are discussed with regard to the constructs of control and understanding and the developmental interrelations among emotion and cognitive processes.
Emotion; Cognition; Dynamic Models; Control; Understanding
This study assessed whether previous findings linking early maternal employment to lower cognitive and behavioral skills among middle class and White children generalized to other groups. Using a representative sample of urban, low-income, predominantly African American and Hispanic families (n = 444), OLS regression and propensity score matching models assessed links between maternal employment in the two years after childbearing and children’s functioning at age 7. Children whose mothers were employed early, particularly in their first 8 months, showed enhanced socio-emotional functioning compared to peers whose mother remained nonemployed. Protective associations emerged for both part time and full time employment, and were driven by African American children, with neutral effects for Hispanics. Informal home-based child care also heightened positive links.
maternal employment; poverty; welfare reform; behavior problems; parental leave