Effects Of ParentCorps Programs On Prekindergarten Children’s Mental Health and Academic Performance

Children from low income minority families are at a risk of performing poorly in school and developing mental problems. A recent study, led by Dr Brotman, LM, and colleagues of New York University, has found that ParentCorps-enhanced pre-kindergarten programs can improve mental health and academic performance in such children.

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The lead author, Laurie Miller Brotman, who is a PhD and a professor of Early Childhood Development in the Department of Population Health, and Director of the Center for Early Childhood Health and Development at NYU Langone, believes that involvement of the family members had the potential to reduce inequality in children hailing from low income families.

The study involved a total of 1,050 children, 518 of them boys and 532 of them girls, in 99 pre-kindergarten classrooms across three years – 2005 till 2008. Most families in the study were low income families while 680 of the children were identified as African American. As compared to children their same age, children in pre-kindergarten involved with ParentCorps had a decreased rate of mental problems and higher academic performance.

The study also evaluated whether the effect of performing better in kindergarten was maintained by children in 2nd grade.

PR Newswire quotes Dr Brotman, “All children do best in environments that are safe, nurturing, and predictable—where children feel valued and accepted by their caregivers and know what to expect from adults who care for them.”

She goes on to say, “The results of this study show that positive interactions with parents, teachers and other caregivers in early childhood can buffer the effects of poverty-related stressors and adverse childhood experiences on child health and development.”

Many studies have pointed that what happens during the prenatal period and the first three years of childhood are critical in the development of the child’s brain. Every movement and touch in a child’s life affects their emotionality by igniting the brain’s neural pathways with electrical and chemical activity.

These early childhood years are when these experiences with other people, along with nutrition and good health, unconsciously imprint some effect in the child’s brain which they bear for many years to come.

Neurosciences have demonstrated throughout the years that all these factors shape and mold the brain and affect their self-control, sexual implications, curiosity, confidence, cooperativeness, attention span and alertness, and which are mostly prevalent during elementary and preschool going years.

Still the idea of a person having sensitive periods during a certain stage in their lifetime is a convincing theory, even though there are many researches proving that it’s not as simple as it sounds.

The kinds of human developmental areas that are said to have a sensitive period are depth perception (the ability to view the world in three dimensions) and language development which extends to four years of age. And to not experience these basic stimuli would require extreme neglect from a child’s parent or guardian.

Additionally, development is not equally divided in the early years, like cognitive development. Studies have shown that children who showed an IQ within the normal range performed poorly in school than their peers who were diagnosed as having learning disabilities.

The most important impact on a child is in areas of social and emotional development, whether they show an attachment to their guardian. In face of insults and subjected to abuse, it has been proved that the trauma makes a child adopt a strategy of withholding emotional expressions due to rejection and this makes them isolate themselves from others, especially in emotional situations.

How Is Socioeconomic Disparity Affecting The Children Of Minority Background?

Socioeconomic factors are also important in defining the health of a population as people with monetary values have better availability to social resources and support, healthcare systems and services and because of the social decline seen in poor neighborhoods, surveys have shown that children have a range of mental health problems in families with low incomes compared to those who are well off.

Due to these deprived circumstances minorities are more exposed to violence and the National Alliance on Mental Health has pointed out that this increases the risk of children developing mental problems such as depression, anxiety, psychosis and PTSD. They are also more likely to be affected by violence than adults and preschool education for poor children has revealed a reduction in crime and teen pregnancy.

Mental illness itself is a significant factor to childhood poverty. Many children living with parents who have alcohol or substance abuse disorders are more likely to experience living with little or no money.

It is due to these circumstances that ParentCorps plays a significant role in society.

ParentCorps is a subdivision of the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine and is a school based program to help children undergo proper and healthy mental development for positive academic success as more than half of children in the United States are linked to poverty which can impair their overall development and behavior.

Its focus is on the development of culturally and racially diverse families and help schools connect with parents so they can oversee their children succeeding.

ParentCorps approaches the population for a positive impact by connecting with and supporting schools to reach the majority of children, by focusing on cultural values for flexibility in social prosperity, by sustaining a network between parents, teachers and children to lessen the risks in child development and to provide ethical guidelines to ensure that healthcare services are distributed equally among people.

Family-centered school based intervention is also one of the objectives of ParentCorps by providing learning opportunities and knowledge to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers, parents, child psychologists and school administrators. This has shown to strengthen home-school connection by promoting emotional and behavioral skills.

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