Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Adverse Family Physical Environment and Children's Cognitive Development in Early Childhood (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

276P (see Poster Gallery) Adverse Family Physical Environment and Children's Cognitive Development in Early Childhood

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Lixia Zhang, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville
Background: Numerous research has documented the associations between family social factors (e.g., parental substance use) and children’s health outcomes. However, there is lack of research on how family physical environment (e.g., levels of chaos and deterioration) would impact children’s growth and wellness. In recent years, a body of emerging research indicated that adverse family physical environment was associated with various negative child outcomes, including physical health impairments, socio-emotional problems, and behavioral problems. Yet, few studies have examined if family physical environment is also related to child cognitive outcomes. Additionally, most of the family physical environment studies were cross-sectional, which limits the causal inference. To address the research gaps, this study utilized national longitudinal data to evaluate the associations between adverse family physical environment and children’s cognitive outcomes in early childhood.

Methods: This study adopted the U.S. Fragile Family and Child Well-Being Study (FFCWS) dataset to conduct research. FFCWS is a birth cohort study of 4,898 children born in large U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000. Mothers and fathers were interviewed soon after their children’s birth and follow-up interviews with both parents were conducted when children were 1, 3, 5, 9 and 15 years old. The current study used family physical environment data collected when children were 3 years old, and child cognitive outcomes data gathered when children were 5 years old.

Family physical environment was measured by the Infant-Toddler Child Care Home Observation of Environment (HOME). The subscale Home Interior Environment was used in this study. Child cognitive outcomes were assessed by Peabody Vocabulary Test score, Woodcock Johnson Letter-Word Identification score, and Sustained Attention Task score.

Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS version 24. Descriptive analyses were conducted for all study variables. Multivariate regression models were run to test if adverse family physical environment would predict child Peabody score, Woodcock score, and attention score. All multivariate regression models controlled for child gender, maternal age, race/ethnicity, education, income, and family social factors such as children’s adverse childhood experiences at age 3.

Results: Regression results indicated that adverse family environment was significantly related with child Peabody score (β = -.106; p< .0001; 95% CI = -1.405, -.541), Woodcock score (β = -.080; p = .002; 95% CI = -1.136, -.259), and attention score (β = -.060; p = .035; 95% CI = -.230, -.008), even when a series of confounding variables were controlled.

Conclusions and Implications: The current study found that there was significant impact of adverse family physical environment on young children’s cognitive outcomes among the U.S. fragile families. The study results indicate that addressing poor physical household conditions and achieving environmental justice may be great prevention and intervention for children’s negative outcomes. Further research is needed to examine the mechanisms that may explain the linkage between adverse family physical environment and children’s cognitive performance.