Living in poverty during childhood is harsh enough in many aspects. Regarding a child’s overall development, its consequences can be devastating. The so-called socioeconomic gap during compulsory education and beyond, has been widely reported by educational research. But when and how is this gap created?
It has also been found that the quality of care that guardians provide has a sizable impact on cognitive development at the earlier stages of life. To test this hypothesis alongside the socioeconomic component, we used data from the Chilean Longitudinal Survey of Early Childhood (ELPI).
We developed a threefold measure of parental involvement composed of positive parenting, parental stimulation and ineffective parenting, to unveil what can make a difference in a child’s cognitive skills. We found that the effect of parental involvement varies across children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, from as early as three years old.
Cognitive scores are found to be higher for children living in the wealthiest households. Although discouraging at first glance, it is also found that a high level of positive parenting has a stronger positive impact on deprived children, while the negative impact of ineffective parenting is stronger on the most advantaged children. This fits into a narrative of striving for success and resilience against all odds for deprived children.
The parental involvement construct can contribute to further our understanding of the socioeconomic gap in cognitive skills acquired by children, which can be particularly relevant for tackling the inequality-related gaps in a variety of later-life outcomes.