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Earthquake effects: Estimating the relationship between exposure to the 2010 Chilean earthquake and preschool children's early cognitive and executive function skills

Little is known about how the experience of an earthquake affects young children's cognitive outcomes. On February 27, 2010, a severe earthquake shook southern Chile. The earthquake occurred during the course of a large-scale evaluation of an early childhood education intervention (child average age = 53 months) in Santiago, such that one cohort of children (n = 698) experienced baseline data collection 3-12 weeks after the earthquake occurred, while a different cohort of children (n = 720) did not. In this paper, we used these available evaluation data to conduct two sets of analyses that explore the relationship between preschool children's exposure to the 2010 Chilean earthquake and their early language, pre-literacy, mathematics and executive function outcomes. In the first set of analyses, we employed a propensity score analysis to estimate the short-term effect of the earthquake on preschool- aged children's early learning and executive function outcomes. Results suggest that children who experienced the earthquake had lower scores on some early language and pre-literacy assessments than those who did not, with effect sizes of approximately 20% of a standard deviation. Results from the second set of analyses suggest that among the families who experienced the earthquake, children whose parents reported more earthquake- related stressors performed significantly lower on some early language and pre-literacy outcomes. Implications of these findings for disaster relief efforts and future research are discussed. (author abstract)
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