Early risk factors of children in poverty
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A number of research studies in early childhood education have examined the negative influence of poverty on child development. The children who live in poverty are more likely to have lack of socio-emotional support as well as cognitive stimulation from their parents or from the society. Lack of economic resources also place children in hazardous living environments. However, many early intervention study results suggested that children who are placed at risk may demonstrate better outcomes when interventions begin earlier in children’s lives and in a more intensive and direct manner. Early Head Start (EHS) program is one of the representative early intervention programs for infants and toddlers of poverty. While the EHS program is still a relatively new program and despite the positive findings of the program, there have been no recent examinations of how specific groups of children exposed to differential levels of risk fare in EHS. What is missing from the literature is an examination of the outcomes for children enrolled in EHS with regard to early risk variables including premature birth, low birth weight, being born to a teenager, poor maternal nutrition during pregnancy, and maternal substance abuse during pregnancy. To conduct this research, demographic information, Bayley Scales of Infant Development, and Denver Developmental Screening Test results of Russell County EHS program participants were collected. In order to gauge the degree of risk based on early risk factor for each, a risk index was created. The index was comprised of five separate ratings of five variables that included: prematurity, low birth weight, the nutritional status of the mother, the age of the mother, and substance abuse by the mother during pregnancy. The unique way of organizing the data in a continuous manner provided for better understanding and control of the contributions of the risk variability. The results of the present study indicated that resilience in the group of at risk children was enhanced by a high quality early intervention program that minimized the resultant effects of early exposure to risk by supporting sound development in cognitive, physical, socio-emotional, and parental development.