Education.com
Try
Brainzy
Try
Plus

Environmental Influences on Young Children's Behavior (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Persistent Parental Unemployment

Poverty among children is directly related to adult unemployment. Indeed, 24 million America children in 2003 had no parent in their household who worked a full-time job, year-round. Almost 4 million of those children lived in families where neither their parents nor any other adult worked in the past year (Casey Foundation,2005).

The Casey Foundation (2005, p. 6) list several "obstacles that impede parents from steady employment" and, thus, keep their children in poverty. These include

  • an inability to secure affordable and accessible child care,
  • low parental literacy levels,
  • limited transportation options that make if difficult for parents to commute to available jobs,
  • disincentives that strip government benefits from families when they become employed and earn wages,
  • parental substance abuse,
  • domestic violence,
  • a parental history of incarceration preventing them from securing a job, and
  • a parental history of mental health disabilities—especially depression.

Single-Parent Families

Second only to poverty, "children in single-parent families are at increased risk for academic failure; increased likelihood of dropping out of high school or becoming a teen parent; and increased levels of depression, stress, anxiety, and aggression" (Casey Foundation, 2005, p. 52). Thirty percent of American children live in single-parent households. Forty-two percent of children in female-headed households live in poverty compared to 9% of children living with married parents (Casey Foundation, 2005).

Single-parent homes are not just made up of unmarried mothers. Single fathers make up almost one in five single parents living with their children (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005). Research suggests that boys are less aggressive when a strong father or dominant male is in the home (Vaden-Kiernan, Ialongo, Pearson, & Kellam, 1995). But other factors such as the strength and consistency of parenting provided by the remaining adult, and a variety of other environmental and economic factors, can significantly lower the risk.

In addition, an increasing number of fathers (3.6 million in 2003) are staying home with the kids while Mom goes to work (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005). This is a 54% increase from 1986, and it reflects a new generation of dads who, unlike many of their fathers, believe it is important to play a primary role in the parenting of their children. Thus, teachers are seeing more and more dads at school and parent-teacher conferences.

Regardless of who is providing the parenting, strong parenting and a supportive environment, including the support offered by a child's school, is the key to positive academic and social outcomes for children.

Babies Born Premature and/or Dysmature

A full-term pregnancy is between 37 and 41 weeks. Babies born 37 weeks or less after conception are considered preterm or premature. Those born between 35 and 37 weeks generally do well. Those born before 32 weeks are at risk for a variety of medical and developmental disabilities (Brown, 2004). According to Brown (2004), about 12% of all live births in the United States were born preterm in 2003 and represented a 13% increase from 1993. An additional variable for the increase in preterm births, according to Brown, was the increasing age of new mothers and the increased use of in vitro fertilization.

Also, 7.8% of babies born in the United States were classified as dysmature or low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams or 5.5 pounds) in 2002 (Casey Foundation, 2005). Infants born premature and/or dysmature are likely to be especially challenging for parents because of frequent crying, poor sleeping patterns, difficult to feed and, in general, to comfort. Crying behavior may be constant and irritating due to the high-pitched nature of the premature child's cry. It is no wonder that these infants are at high risk for maltreatment by caregivers, especially inexperienced, young parents.

Early childhood teachers need to understand that challenging behaviors associated with prematurity and dysmaturity will decrease as the infant develops beyond the normal 9th month of gestation. Patience, support from others, and a sense of humor will get most caregivers through this difficult time. The behavior of most children born prematurely will be consistent with their peers before their second birthday.

View Full Article
Add your own comment