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Neighborhood Poverty, Social Capital, And The Cognitive Development Of African American Preschoolers

1606 words - 6 pages

Children in families with lower incomes at or below the poverty line have been connected with poor cognitive and social development in early childhood. The studies that I chose to use evaluate the cognitive and social development during early childhood using various surveys, evaluations, and observations completed by or with the children, parents, and teachers. Development of any kind is dependent on the interplay of nature and nurture, or genetics and environment. These studies draw from a child’s environment during the earliest years of development, specifically birth, pre-school, and early elementary school. The studies propose living in an impoverished environment as opposed to an environment above the poverty line imposes certain restrictions on cognitive and social development during early childhood.
In the first study titled “Neighborhood Poverty, Social Capital, and the Cognitive Development of African American Preschoolers”. O’Brien and O’Campo examined the ecological context of neighborhoods and the effects held over cognitive development for children, specifically African American preschoolers. The focus of the research was to answer two questions related to how social capital of a family and neighborhood contribute to cognitive development of African American preschool-aged children (O’Brien, 2006). The main focuses were to determine if the differences in cognitive development was associated with neighborhood poverty over and above family characteristics, and if the differences could be explained by social capital or family capital. In order to do so, they evaluated various components of neighborhoods and families.
In neighborhoods, research was focused on the neighborhood structure, including impoverishment and population instability. Social capital, which is defined as “the norms, the social networks, and the relationships between adults and children that are of value for the child’s growing up” (O’Brien, 2006, 143), which includes willingness to assist children and to stop acts of misbehavior, was also included. Lastly, negative social climate of a neighborhood was take into account, including physical and social disorder, and fear of retaliation and victimization.
Evaluations at the family level began with family demographics and structure, which included parent education, employment status, size, structure, and income. Evaluations also took into account the parent involvement with the child, focusing on expressions of affection, eliciting, and joint activities of the mother and child. The cultural context of the family’s home was evaluated based on culturally acceptable toys, photos of African American family members, and clothing or household items made out of African fabric or prints. To evaluate the child’s actual cognitive competence the children were tested on mental processing and achievement. The results were then split into Achievement, focusing on facts, Sequential Processing, focusing on completing steps, and...

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