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 In Blog, Pediatric Psychology

Children from low-income households tend to struggle the most in school. Research has shown that children with limited access to resources do not develop as quickly as their peers and find it difficult to catch up once they reach school age. A new study from RTI International, funded by National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, finds that it is possible to close the development gap in children from low-resource and high-resources families. The researchers reveal that in-home interventions that teach parents how to actively engage with their children can completely close the development gap. The study has major implications for interventions in areas with limited resources.

The study included over 290 children in India, Pakistan, and Zambia. Trainers visited the children and their families beginning before the children reached one month of age and lasting until children reached three years of age. The trainers modeled activities from the Partners for Learning response-to-intervention curriculum, which focuses on cognitive, self-help, language, and motor skills. After each bi-weekly training session, the trainers left cards that depicted the activities with parents. They encouraged the parents to incorporate the activities into daily life between training sessions.

Home-based interventions that teach parents how to engage with their children are effective for closing the development gap between children in low-resource and high-resource families. At age 12 months, the children from disadvantaged families cognitively lagged behind children in high-resource families. By age 36 months, the children who received the intervention were at the same developmental level, regardless of their resource level. Children from low-resource families who did not receive the intervention remained behind in cognitive development.

“By simply teaching caregivers age-appropriate activities to foster child development, we found that early intervention can help children from low-income families catch up with their peers from high-resource families,” stated lead study author Carla Bann, Ph.D., statistics and psychometrics fellow at RTI. “This study is significant because the intervention was done in the home and did not require the infrastructure of a center-based intervention, making it feasible for low-resource populations and middle-low-income countries to implement.”

This research is published in the journal Pediatrics.

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