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Author: Lucas, Michael Dale
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1. Lucas, Michael Dale
Family Background, Home Environment and the Rate of Child Cognitive Development
Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Texas At Dallas, 1998
Cohort(s): Children of the NLSY79, NLSY79
Publisher: UMI - University Microfilms, Bell and Howell Information and Learning
Keyword(s): Children, Academic Development; Cognitive Ability; Elementary School Students; Family Characteristics; Family Studies; Home Environment; Home Observation for Measurement of Environment (HOME); Household Composition; Household Structure; Minority Groups; Modeling, Growth Curve/Latent Trajectory Analysis; Poverty; Racial Differences

Arguments continue concerning the effect of various social factors upon children's academic performance, especially during the elementary school years. This dissertation examines the effects of family and home characteristics upon minority and majority children's performance from the first through sixth grades. First, I ask if minority children enter first grade with performance levels in reading and math comparable to those of white children. Second, I ask how much of the variance in children's performance over time can be attributed to social factors associated with race/ethnicity and how much is explained by social factors such as poverty status, household configuration, the quality of the home environment and maternal cognitive skills. I also measure the relative strength of these factors in predicting children's beginning performance levels and subsequent rates of growth. These questions are addressed by applying Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) Linked Mother-Child dataset. HLM facilitates fitting a growth curve model to over-time data for each child. That is, family and child characteristics are permitted to have separate effects on the child's beginning cognitive performance level and also on the child's rate of cognitive growth. I find that black and white children do, indeed, enter first grade performing differently in reading and mathematics, without further controls. I find that race/ethnicity, family configuration and sibling group size have no significant effect on either beginning levels of performance or on growth rates for either math or reading skills when the effects of maternal cognitive performance and the home environment are controlled. Poverty remains a predictor of reading comprehension growth rate scores, but not for math beginning levels of performance or rates of growth, when maternal cognitive performance is controlled. Gender proves to be a predictor of math rates of growth at the 0.1 level of significance. Overall, maternal cognitive performance is the most powerful predictor of children's reading and math capabilities. The child's home environment, over and above the mother's cognitive skill, exerts a secondary effect on child cognitive performance.
Bibliography Citation
Lucas, Michael Dale. Family Background, Home Environment and the Rate of Child Cognitive Development. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Texas At Dallas, 1998.