Early child development in low- and middle-income countries: Is it what mothers have or what they do that makes a difference to child outcomes?

Nirmala RAO, Caroline COHRSSEN, Jin SUN, Yufen SU, Michal PERLMAN

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapters

Abstract

Child developmental theories and a large body of literature underscore the importance of both home and preschool influences on early childhood outcomes. We leveraged data from UNICEF'S Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, a nationally representative international household survey that has collected cohort comparable information on children's early development in over 118 low- and middle-income countries since 1995. We focused on data from 216,052 3- to 4-year-olds (106,037 girls) from 28 countries that had undertaken at least two surveys from 2010 to 2018. We considered the impact of maternal education and household wealth (what mothers/caregivers have) on home learning activities and sending children to early childhood programs (what mothers/caregivers do), on early child development. Our results indicated that maternal education, household wealth, home learning activities, participation in early childhood education (ECE) and scores on the early childhood development index (ECDI) generally increased over time and were significantly related to each other. Multilevel structural equation modeling revealed the mechanism through which maternal education and household wealth were associated with child outcomes. More wealthy and more educated mothers were more likely to send their child to an ECE program, which was in turn, associated with a higher ECDI score. Caregiver-reported participation in ECE had a large effect on the ECDI score while maternal education had a small effect on it. In comparison the effects of the home learning environment were much smaller. Taken together, findings suggest that education and wealth (what parents have) influence what they do (providing opportunities for learning), which in turn influences early child development. Furthermore, exposure to ECE services was particularly important for children's development. We conclude by discussing the policy implications of our findings and providing suggestions for future research. Copyright © 2021 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in child development and behavior
EditorsJeffrey J. LOCKMAN
Place of PublicationCambridge, United States
PublisherAcademic Press
Pages255-277
Volume61
ISBN (Print)9780128245774
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Citation

Rao, N., Cohrssen, C., Sun, J., Su, Y., & Perlman, M. (2021). Early child development in low- and middle-income countries: Is it what mothers have or what they do that makes a difference to child outcomes? In J. J. Lockman (Ed.), Advances in child development and behavior (Vol. 61, pp. 255-277). Cambridge, United States: Academic Press.

Keywords

  • Early child development
  • Maternal education
  • Home learning activities
  • Early childhood education

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