Childhood Education and Social Inequalities

Early Childhood Development and Social Inequalities By All families should
have the same opportunities to live a descent life. But due to the backgrounds
of some families, and children, they may not have a chance for this. There are
certain risk factors that have a bearing on social inequalities in health, and
particularly those that are prone to preventative intervention. There are many
that I could talk about, but I have picked out four of these factors to talk
about. They are biological factors, family and social factors, parenting factors,
and attachment. Even these I feel that I will not be able to cover completely,
because there is only a certain part we see, and then there is the that is kept
hidden from all. There are many factors that influence the development and
social inequalities in a childs life. These include biological, family and social
factors, parenting factors, attachment, and the way non-maternal care is
influenced. All of these are risk factors that are likely to have a bearing on the
childs social inequalities on their health. The biological factors include
premature birth, low birth weight, and a serious medical illness. The
significantly influence and infants growth. Low birth weight, less than 2500
grams, has a prevalence of 6 percent in white middle-class U.S. women, and
15 percent in ethnic minority teenagers. These teenagers tend to be single
mothers. At the Infant Health and Development Project, they found that in a
large amount of premature infants, that their IQ was less than 85 at three
years of age. Race was the greatest factor in predicting outcome, that was
followed by maternal education, and then medical complications. The infants
of poorly educated African American mothers (90%) who had medical
complications were severely compromised, while only nine percent of white
infants with well-educated parents fell into this category, regardless of birth
complications. There are other biological variables that seem to be
independent of psycho-social factors. In one study, it was shown that if the
mother smoked during her pregnancy, there appeared to be a high risk for
conduct disorder and male children. This study suggested that are maybe a
direct effect on the still developing fetus. The influences of genetics are seen
as an impact on social inequalities. The MacArthur Longitudinal Twin Study
provided researchers with important information related to genetic factors in
behavioral inhibition. Behavioral inhibition is unstable between ages of 14 to
24 months, and that this change is due to genetics rather then environmental
factors. It suggests that genes may turn off and on at different ages, and that
genes are context dependent. In example of the Twin Study, comparisons
between the identical and fraternal twins show that there was a continual
genetic influence showing responses on cognitive, emotional, and behavior
arousal in response to distress of another, at the ages of 24 and 36 months.

Social influences that were shared by the twins with their interactions with
parents and others were a major influence with the mothers, but not the
testers. So genetic influences showed up more readily. Genetic influences
were ever present are not environmentally controlled. Maybe the social
background of a child with a low SES (socioeconomic status) could inhibit or
caused the trigger effect (turn on or off) of genetic propensities. Our next
topic is the family and social factors. Two of the biggest are social class and
poverty. These have been found very often to predict the developmental
outcomes of childhood. There are suggestions that infants and young children
who grow up in poverty are more likely to suffer health problems., cognitive
delays and behavioral problems as compared to children who do not grow
up in poverty. These poor children more likely to experience medical
problems such as lead poisoning, failure to thrive, otitis media, iron
deficiency, anemia, and to score lower on developmental and cognitive
scales. There are many variables that effect relationships indirectly, these
include nutrition, housing, medical care, lifestyles, neighborhood quality,
accidents, and exposure to toxic substances. Also a social and emotional
qualities in which the child develops: parenting skills, maltreatment, maternal
disharmony, and quality of care. Young children who have a low SES are
assigned the term doubled jeopardy, because they are not only exposed to
risk factors more frequently, but they also experience more serious
consequences from these risks. People from a low SES background are
vulnerable to negative events in their lives such as single parenting, social
isolation, and unemployment. The fate of the child raised in poverty is further
jeopardized by more exposure to power-assertive discipline and physical
punishment without the parenting support they need. Evidence of poor
abusive families who live in poverty is likely to be associated with an increase
in the severity of maltreatment. The effect of low SES on social development
and delinquency is particularly strong when experienced in early childhood.

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Poverty severely affects the childs home environment. There are other
features of poverty that are also linked to social class. There is a study done
in 1991 that showed adolescent mothers who had a two-month old infant,
that there was more role-reversal in low SES subjects. Infants and toddlers
who live in poor families showed that their level of stimulation is likely to be
lower than in more affluent households. This lower-level of stimulation, in the
support which is found in the homes of low SES children is frequently pointed
out as the most important detriment of a poor developmental outcome. There
many specific family risk factors that are important to social inequality, the
three that stand out the most are maternal quality, adolescent parenting, and
family violence. There are many studies that link maternal quality to infant
functioning. Conflict predicts abnormal infant behavior and conduct
problems in toddlers. In some studies the comparison of the effect of family
instability such as losing a parent through divorce or death. Maternal conflict
has always had an impact on childrens behavioral problems, and has caused
a greater negative influence. The risk to children is associated to overt
expressions of inter-parental anger, expression of physical hostility,
child-rearing disagreements, and the lack of resolving conflicts. In families
were there is only a mother, their children have injury rates that are twice that
of two parent families. These injuries are statistically explained by the
development of social inequalities such as poverty, poor housing, and social
isolation. When the parent is an adolescent is well-established that there is a
greater risk factor in the development of infants. Parenting behavior of these
adolescent mothers is deficient in many important areas. They are more
passive in one-on-one interactions, stimulate the infant less, smile and talk
less, fewer positive physical or eye contacts, given more commands and
authorative statements, more restrictive, physically intrusive and punitive, they
make fewer elaborative and descriptive responses, and are less committed
and satisfied with being a mother. The parents who show this usually have
children who speak less, have poorer cognitive and linguistic outcomes, are
impulsive, aggressive, have social withdrawal, insecure attachments, and poor
peer relationships. Maltreatment of children is another big risk-factor with
significant bearing on the social class. Maltreatment is associated with
aggression, and four times as many(about 20%) of maltreated children go on
to become delinquent. The causes can be associated with biological
psychological, and social bearings. There is no doubt that early maltreatment
of children can affect their neurodevelopment as well as their behavior. If the
parents have access to community resources, and the support those
resources provide are increased, then the possibility of maltreatment is
diminished. Disorganized attachment may be linked to maltreatment. Mothers
with toddlers who reported an abundance of partner violence were more
likely to show disorganized attachment relationships, even if there was no
evidence of the children themselves having been maltreated. Maltreated
youngsters show many other social and emotional problems including
indiscriminate sociability, poor affect regulation, heightened levels of
aggression, social withdrawal, inconsistent and unpredictable signals. Perhaps
most critically, there appear to be major dysfunctions of self development. It
is suggested that if a child is maltreated early, then that may undermine the
relationship between the infant and the care-giver. This limits the way they
interact with their care-givers and other children. It focuses them to use action
instead of words to influence the behavior of others, and the way themselves
act. One of the most influential impacts on child development is child-rearing,
or parenting. When we look at parenting this way social inequalities are most
relevant. The mothers who are from low SES groups are apt to provide less
learning and academic stimulation, they offer less variety in social and cultural
experiences, less warmth and affection, and more punitive care- giving such
as yelling, scolding, hitting and spanking. These behaviors have shown to be
associated with poor results including a lower IQ, and emotional and
behavioral problems. A recent report from the multi-site Infant Health and
Development Program showed that harsh parental discipline in the context of
low maternal warmth, was associated with IQ scores for girls at three years
of age 12 points lower than the IQ scores of girls who received low
punishment and high warmth. Young mothers who have great stress in their
mother-child relationship have found it more difficult to make use of job
opportunity and basic skills programs. In regards of their strength in the
relationship between quality of parenting, and socioeconomic status is
moderate. When parenting is based on the assertion of power instead of
supportive guidance, it breeds the development of behavioral disorders. In a
study conducted by NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, the ratings
of mothers sensitivity – positive regard, non-intrusiveness, sensitivity to
non-distress expression, based on videotaped observations of mother-child
interaction at 6-15months showed non-complaint behavior in the laboratory,
as well as in the home at two and three years. When parents make do
demands such as come and eat, sit down, and get dressed to two and
three year olds, instead of dont demands dont get lost, dont stay up
too late, as well as using positive affects, the childrens level of compliance is
enhanced. Another psychiatric problem that can be connected with social
inequalities in early childhood development is substance abuse. Evidence
shows that there is no simple relationship between prenatal drug exposure
and specific developmental outcomes. But the combination of biological and
psycho-social risk factors that are related with drug abuse. It has been shown
that there are serious effects on development. A drug using life style could be
tied to inadequate nutrition and poor prenatal care, which compromises fetal
growth. Drug exposure is likely to affect CNS development as a function of
timing, dose, and duration. These factors are impossible to control, and their
impact can be moderated by other factors that are not related to the nature of
the exposure. By assessing this information, I think that maybe we should
look at the existing health visitation program offered by the state. If we make
some changes I feel that the health visitation may be more effective. We could
have them working more with mothers before the birth of their child, giving
them information on what to expect. Also have them work in a structured
program of proven proficiency, one that has shown good results. Priority
should also be given to mothers who, in the past have had a history of
childhood maltreatment, give special training in child management techniques,
all of these should lead up to good childhood care. There could also be
experimental trials conducted for early parent-training, who are at high risk.

These could include focusing on child behavior management, having the
parent take classes on how to manage different behaviors. Enlist the aide of
the community in parent- training, this could be offered in groups instead of
individuals, this does away with the singling out of people who are more at
risk than others. There should also be a much wider voluntary program for
mothers at risk, and this could be started in the childs first six months. A
specialized trainer could conduct this program, maybe a mother who has
already gone through the program. In the pre-school curriculum problems of
behavior may be addressed. Schools could have specially trained pre-school
teachers aimed at reducing the risk of behavior disorders, and conduct
problems. For children and parents who are going through the loss of a
parent, by divorce or death, a program could be set up. This program would
help the parents to manage the conflict of divorce, in order to reduce the child
from feeling like they are the problem. It would also help the child to stay in
touch with both parents after the divorce. This program could be integrated
into the school system, with school based counseling services for these
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