Associations among family socioeconomic status, parenting and sustained attention for socioeconomically disadvantaged children at age 5 years

Wanqiu Meng, Caroline F.D. Black, Min Feng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Children whose families experience socioeconomic disadvantage are at risk for poor sustained attention, a foundational skill related to goal-oriented behaviour, self-regulation and kindergarten readiness. Maternal parenting behaviours and parenting stress are theorised developmental pathways linking socioeconomic status (SES) to children's sustained attention. However, research has yet to empirically test for these indirect pathways, thus limiting the relevance of extant findings to inform targets of parent-mediated programmes addressing attentional disparities at school entry for low-income children. Using a sample of mostly low-income children from the Future of Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 2214) and the process of parenting model, this study tested whether maternal parenting stress, harsh parenting and cognitive stimulation uniquely explained associations between SES and child sustained attention at age 5 years. Results from structural equation modelling revealed that SES was positively and directly associated with child sustained attention. Some of these effects were indirectly transmitted through the pathway of maternal cognitive stimulation; however, neither harsh parenting nor parenting stress helped to explain the relationship between SES and child sustained attention. Implications of the findings are explored in the context of early childhood prevention and promotion programmes serving low-income families. Highlights: This study explores the direct and indirect paths of family SES on child sustained attention through the pathways of maternal cognitive stimulation, harsh parenting and parenting stress amongst socioeconomically disadvantaged children. Results from SEM revealed that SES was positively and directly associated with child-sustained attention and some of these effects were indirectly transmitted through the pathway of maternal cognitive stimulation. Cognitive stimulation is a crucial pathway through which SES may promote or impede the development of children's sustained attention skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInfant and Child Development
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • family socioeconomic status
  • maternal parenting
  • parenting stress
  • socioeconomically disadvantaged children
  • sustained attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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