Persistent Poverty Undermines Cognitive Function at Age 5

In contrast, family instability is not independently correlated with cognitive function

MONDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- Persistent poverty at a very early age is an independent risk factor that can undermine a child's cognitive development at age 5, according to a study published online April 20 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Ingrid Schoon, Ph.D., from the University of London, and colleagues investigated the correlations between income poverty, family instability, and cognitive development in early childhood. Data were collected from the Millenium cohort at infancy, and at ages 3 and 5 years. Using the British Ability Scales, cognitive ability was assessed directly at age 5. Associations between persistent income poverty, family transitions, and children's cognitive ability were examined, after controlling for factors including family demographics, accommodation conditions, and variables indicating a child's characteristics.

The investigators found that cognitive function at age 5 was undermined by persistent economic hardship and poverty at a very early age. There was no significant correlation between family instability and cognitive functioning after controlling for confounders, including family poverty and demographics, housing, and child characteristics.

"The study shows that early and persistent poverty undermines cognitive development, whereas family instability shows no significant association with cognitive functioning after controlling for family poverty and a set of control variables," the authors write.

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