The UK Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) surveyed 18,553 families and 18,819 children born between September 2000 and August 2001. Families were interviewed when the child was nine months, three years, and five years old. Kathleen Kiernan used data from this study to examine the factors that enhance a child’s cognitive development in the early years, and family and environmental factors that facilitate school readiness and school performance.
Several articles based on this work have been published. Including:
Holmes J and Kiernan K (2012), Persistent Poverty and Children's Development in the Early Years of Childhood
This paper provides further evidence that persistent poverty has a greater effect on children's cognitive development than intermittent poverty. Building on existing research on persistent poverty and child outcomes, this article uses longitudinal data from the Millennium Cohort Study to examine developmental contexts and outcomes of persistently poor children and whether resilience factors can be identified.
The full article was published online in Policy & Politics.
Kiernan KE, and Mensah FK (2011), Poverty, Family Resources and Children’s Educational Attainment: The Mediating Role of Parenting
Professor Kiernan used data from the study to show the extent to which episodic and more persistent poverty in early childhood and the lack of other family resources disadvantage children at the start of their school careers in terms of whether they have achieved the target indicator of 'good level of achievement' on the Foundation Stage Profile. Positive parenting is shown to be an important contributor to school achievement that matters for children, regardless of poverty experience or family disadvantage. It is also shown to be an important mediator in redressing the effects of poverty and disadvantage.
The full article was published in the British Educational Research Journal.
Kiernan K, and Mensah F (2009) Gender Differences in Educational Attainment: Influences of the Family Environment
There are gender differences in educational attainment amongst British children and there is evidence that these differences emerge early in life. This study investigates whether boys’ and girls’ early educational attainment levels are similarly related to disadvantage in the family environment. The study uses survey data from the MCS linked with the teachers Foundation Stage Profile assessment for children in the primary year of school in England between 2005 and 2006.
The study finds lower attainment in communication, language and literacy and mathematical development for both boys and girls in families experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage. Early motherhood, low maternal qualifications, low family income, and unemployment most strongly predict lower scores. Tests for gender interaction shows boys in families where mothers are young, where they lack qualifications or if they are living in poor quality areas are more disadvantaged compared to girls in similar circumstances. The full article was published online by the British Journal of Educational Research in May 2009.
Kiernan K, and Mensah F (2009) Poverty, Maternal Depression, Family Status and Children's Cognitive and Behavioural Development in Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Study
This study examines how three aspects of parental resources – income, mother's mental well-being and family status – in early childhood enhance or compromise their children's cognitive and behavioural development. As well as examining how these three aspects of parental resources separately and jointly affect children's well-being, the authors also enquire whether persistent poverty or persistent maternal depression are more harmful for children's current well-being than periodic episodes of poverty and depression.
The study revealed strong associations between poverty and young children's intellectual and behavioural development, and persistent poverty was found to be particularly important in relation to children's cognitive development. Maternal depression (net of other factors) was more weakly related to cognitive development but strongly related to whether children were exhibiting behaviour problems, and persistent depression amplified the situation. Family status, net of other factors (most noticeably poverty), was only weakly associated with children's development. The full article was published in the Journal of Social Policy (2009), 38.
Kiernan K, and Huerta MC (2008) Economic Deprivation, Maternal Depression, Parenting and Children's Cognitive and Emotional Development in Early Childhood
This study uses data from the MCS to examine the extent to which economic circumstances in infancy and mother's mental well-being are associated with children's cognitive development and behaviour problems at age 3 years, and what part parenting behaviours and attitudes play in mediating these factors. The analyses derived from Structural Equation Modelling show that economic deprivation and maternal depression separately and collectively diminish the cognitive and emotional well-being of children, and part of this diminution emanates from less nurturing and engaged parenting by those with less economic and emotional resources. The full article was published in the December 2008 edition of the British Journal of Sociology, issue 59:4.