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
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.