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Early physical health conditions and school readiness skills in a prospective birth cohort of U.S. children

Rationale: Extant research identifies associations between early physical health disparities and impaired functioning in adulthood, but limited research examines the emergence of these associations in the early years of children's lives. Objective: This study draws on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Birth Cohort (ECLS-B; N = 5900) to assess whether a host of early health indicators measured from birth to age five are associated with children's cognitive and behavioral skills at age five. Results: After adjusting for child and family characteristics, results revealed that children's neonatal risks (prematurity or low birth weight) and reports of poor health and hospitalizations were associated with lower cognitive skills, and neonatal risks and poor health predicted lower behavioral functioning at age five. Some of the association between neonatal risks and school readiness skills were indirect, functioning through children's poor health and hospitalization. Analyses further found that associations between early physical health and children's school readiness skills were consistent across subgroups defined by family income and child race/ethnicity, suggesting generalizability of results. Conclusions: Findings emphasize the need for more interdisciplinary research, practice, and policy related to optimizing child well-being across domains of physical health and development in the early years of life. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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