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.