The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The Contribution of Child-Routines in a Longitudinal Model Examining Early Parenting Environment and Later Regulatory Development and Learning Readiness of Young Children in Low-Income Families

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 9:00 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 102B Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Michaela Zajicek-Farber, MSW PhD, Associate Professor, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C, DC
Lynn Milgram Mayer, MSW, PhD, Assistant Professor, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC
Laura G. Daughtery, PhD, Associate Professor, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC
Purpose: The importance of having a quality parenting environment as a contributor to the competence in emotion and behavior regulation and learning readiness during early childhood is grounded in multifaceted research (Brooks-Gunn et al., 2013; Parker et al., 2012; Combs-Orme et al., 2012) and supported by attachment theory (Raikes & Thompson, 2010). Having child-routines reflects best parenting practices (Borkowski & Weaver, 2006), reduces parenting-stress (Markson & Fiese, 2000), supports early development (Campbell, 2011), and has been suggested to be an empirical protective factor against a parenting environment fraught with maternal depression and parenting-stress in a cross-sectional study of preschoolers (Zajicek-Farber et al., 2012). Although cross-sectional designs are useful for the identification of variable relationships, research shows that such designs cannot confirm inference regarding uncovered relationships (Maxwell & Cole, 2007). Hence, this current IRB-approved study investigates a longitudinal path-model over three time periods; specifically testing the hypothesized connections between early parenting environment factors at 14 months, with parenting-stress, engagement in child-routines at bedtime, and children’s emotion and behavior regulation and cognition at 36 months, while controlling for child’s gender, and these factors’ influence on children’s learning readiness for language and problem-solving at 60 months. The model is well supported by dynamic skills theory used for understanding children’s developmental trajectories over time (Granic & Patterson, 2006), and is relevant to social work practice delivered in early childhood settings.

Method: Secondary data analysis used 3001 children enrolled during Birth-To-5-Years phase into the federal Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project (EHSREP). Rigorously-trained interviewers collected data in time-scheduled structured interviews. Parental variables on mental health, parenting-knowledge, parenting-stress, child-routines, and continuous male-presence (CESD; FES; KIDI; PSI; EHS-Questions on child-routines) were self-reported. Trained-examiners tested children’s emotion-behavior-regulation and cognition using Bailey-II scales (Bailey, 1983), and learning readiness for language and problem solving (PPVT-III, Dunn & Dunn, 1997; W-J Letter-Word Recognition, W-J Applied-Problems,  Woodcock & Johnson, 1989). Using SPSS/AMOS-20 (Blunch, 2013), structural equation modeling (SEM) with maximum likelihood tested the hypothesized-longitudinal model. Meditation/moderation models followed standard recommendations (Byrne, 2010; Frazier, Tix, & Barron, 2004).

Results: The final longitudinal SEM path-model shows a good fit (Chi-Square (df 93)=252.98, p<.001; CFI=.969, NFI=.962, RMSEA=.024). The model explains 26% of variance in parenting-stress, 36% in child-routines, 40% in emotion-behavior-regulation and cognition, and 72% in learning readiness. The model supports that early parenting-environment factors have significant direct consequences to later parenting-stress, which mediates their effect onto engagement in child-routines (Beta=-.35). Early maternal knowledge of infant development further independently contributes to child-routines (Beta=.44). Child-routines fully mediate the path between parenting-stress and child emotion-behavior-regulation and cognition (controlling for child gender) (Beta=.63), which then directly leads to 60-months learning readiness (Beta=.85). Moderation analyses with constrained/invariant regression-paths evince similar results for boys and girls, and different results for three ethnic /race-groups.

Implications: As social workers strive to strengthen childrearing practices, their intervention efforts need to encourage sensitive use of child-routines as an evidence-based option that can protect against negative environmental influences in the home and help promote children’s regulatory behaviors for their later learning readiness.