2015: Urban Myths about Learning and Education, 1st Edition

Together with Casper Hulshof I wrote a popular book in Dutch on educational myths in 2013.

In 2015 a whole new, updated and upgraded version will be published internationally by Elsevier/Academic Press, written by myself, prof. Paul A. Kirschner and Casper Hulshof.

The manuscript has been sent in and… check here.

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Interesting report: Tackling Early Leaving from Education and Training in Europe (Eurydice)

There is a new report on youngsters leaving early from education and training in Europe, and while it focuses on this continent, some of the insights seem relevant to other regions.

E.g. on factors contributing to early leaving:

Leaving education and training early is a complex issue and the causes vary from student to student. The second chapter of the report shows that family and/or migrant background, gender and socio- economic circumstances as well as factors related to the education and training system are only some of the elements implicated to a greater or lesser extent in the process leading students to leave education and training early.

Statistically, students who are born abroad, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and males are more prone to early leaving than other groups. As far as gender is concerned, the figures show that boys are over-represented amongst early leavers in general education. However, the higher the socio-economic status of students, the less apparent is the difference in the rates of early leaving between the genders.

As shown by this report, coming from a migrant/minority background or being a male should not be seen as defining factors with respect to early leaving. The socio-economic situation of students appears to exert the stronger influence on the probability of leaving education and training early than other factors. Difficult family situations such as unemployment, low household income and low levels of parental education, can have a direct and lasting effect on students’ school career, their attitudes towards learning, their educational achievement; and this can consequently lead to their decision to leave education and training early. This is also one of the main reasons why cross-government and cross-sector cooperation to ensure the coordination of the different services supporting the multiple needs of disadvantaged families is so crucial/

A number of factors relating to the education system that influence early leaving rates have also been discussed in chapter 2. The negative aspects include grade retention, the socio-economic segregation of schools and early tracking based on academic selection. However, there are also positive factors that can lower the risk of early leaving, such as participation in high quality early childhood education and care and well-managed transition processes from primary to secondary level, and lower to upper secondary level, and from school to work. Flexible pathways in upper secondary education can also have a positive effect in preventing or reducing early leaving. Finally, factors such as local labour market conditions can act as ‘pull’ or ‘push’ factors in the early leaving process, which highlights the complex relationship of the early leaving phenomenon with employment. It also underlines the important role of education and career guidance in supporting students to make appropriate choices for themselves.

The report is itself an interesting example of comparative education which comes to no surprise as it’s a Eurydice-report.

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Interesting discussion paper: the effect of older siblings on learning.

I found this paper by Nicolleti & Rabe via @DylanWilliam. In this discussion paper the authors show evidence that when older siblings achieve more, younger siblings do very slightly better too.The interesting part: this is especially the case in poorer households. The researchers have corrected their findings for school, background,… but it’s a very difficult thing to do. Siblings often go to the same school, have the same parents,… The researchers sum up possible other factors that may have an influence on their results but that they can’t correct their findings for, still they argue (based on literature on these other factors) that their findings are robust.

The non-technical summary:

In this paper we estimate how much a younger sibling’s school achievement is affected by his/her older sibling’s achievement at school (“sibling spillover effect”). This is an important question to answer as it helps us understand whether investments in children may have multiplier effects through their impact on younger children. We are the first to investigate this issue.
The older sibling’s achievement may have a direct effect on the younger sibling’s school grades if 1) the older sibling teaches the younger sibling or helps with homework; 2) the younger sibling imitates the older sibling, for example in their work style, or conversely tries to be different, for example to avoid competition; 3) the older sibling passes on important information about educational choices or school and teachers to the younger sibling.
When trying to assess the extent of any sibling spillover effects we need to be careful that we distinguish the direct influence of the older to the younger sibling from any similarities in their exam grades that are caused by the fact that they come from the same family and are likely to go to the same school. This paper does this by combining several techniques known to economists.
Our study shows that there is a small direct effect from the older sibling’s test scores to the younger sibling’s exam marks. More precisely, for each GCSE exam grade improvement of the older sibling – for example from a B to an A – the younger sibling’s exam marks would go up by just 4% of a grade. This effect is about equivalent to the impact of increasing yearly spending per pupil in the younger sibling’s school by £670.
We find that the spillover effect is larger for siblings in families eligible for free school meals, living in deprived neighbourhoods and speaking a language other than English at home. This means that children from more deprived backgrounds benefit more from a high attaining older sibling than children from more affluent backgrounds. It may be that the effect arises through information sharing about educational choices and schools/teachers. Information on this is likely harder to come by in poorer families, and the benefit to younger children therefore high. Our results indicate that siblings can play an important role in conveying education-related information in families where parents have less access to such information.
This suggests that investments into children from deprived families can have considerable multiplier effects on younger siblings.

Abstract of the paper:

We provide the first empirical evidence on direct sibling spillover effects in school achievement using English administrative data. Our identification strategy exploits the variation in school test scores across three subjects observed at age 11 and 16 and the variation in the composition of school mates between siblings. These two sources of variation have been separately used to identify school peer effects, but never in combination. By combining them we are able to identify a sibling spillover effect that is net of unobserved child, family and school characteristics shared by siblings. We find a modest spillover effect from the older sibling to the younger but not vice versa. This effect is considerably higher for siblings from deprived backgrounds, where sibling sharing of school knowledge might compensate for the lack of parental information.

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Where memories (probably) are made

Well, memories are made in the brain -that seems obvious- but where in the brain? An international team of researchers has successfully determined the location, where memories are generated with a level of precision never achieved before. And this could be good news for Alzheimer research!

From the press release:

The human brain continuously collects information. However, we have only basic knowledge of how new experiences are converted into lasting memories. Now, an international team led by researchers of the University of Magdeburg and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) has successfully determined the location, where memories are generated with a level of precision never achieved before. The team was able to pinpoint this location down to specific circuits of the human brain. To this end the scientists used a particularly accurate type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. The researchers hope that the results and method of their study might be able to assist in acquiring a better understanding of the effects Alzheimer’s disease has on the brain.

The findings are reported in Nature Communications.

For the recall of experiences and facts, various parts of the brain have to work together. Much of this interdependence is still undetermined, however, it is known that memories are stored primarily in the cerebral cortex and that the control center that generates memory content and also retrieves it, is located in the brain’s interior. This happens in the hippocampus and in the adjacent entorhinal cortex.

“It is been known for quite some time that these areas of the brain participate in the generation of memories. This is where information is collected and processed. Our study has refined our view of this situation,” explains Professor Emrah Düzel, site speaker of the DZNE in Magdeburg and director of the Institute of Cognitive Neurology and Dementia Research at the University of Magdeburg. “We have been able to locate the generation of human memories to certain neuronal layers within the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex. We were able to determine which neuronal layer was active. This revealed if information was directed into the hippocampus or whether it traveled from the hippocampus into the cerebral cortex. Previously used MRI techniques were not precise enough to capture this directional information. Hence, this is the first time we have been able to show where in the brain the doorway to memory is located.”

For this study, the scientists examined the brains of persons who had volunteered to participate in a memory test. The researchers used a special type of magnetic resonance imaging technology called “7 Tesla ultra-high field MRI.” This enabled them to determine the activity of individual brain regions with unprecedented accuracy.

A Precision method for research on Alzheimer’s

“This measuring technique allows us to track the flow of information inside the brain and examine the areas that are involved in the processing of memories in great detail,” comments Düzel. “As a result, we hope to gain new insights into how memory impairments arise that are typical for Alzheimer’s. Concerning dementia, is the information still intact at the gateway to memory? Do troubles arise later on, when memories are processed? We hope to answer such questions.”

Abstract of the research:

The ability to form long-term memories for novel events depends on information processing within the hippocampus (HC) and entorhinal cortex (EC). The HC–EC circuitry shows a quantitative segregation of anatomical directionality into different neuronal layers. Whereas superficial EC layers mainly project to dentate gyrus (DG), CA3 and apical CA1 layers, HC output is primarily sent from pyramidal CA1 layers and subiculum to deep EC layers. Here we utilize this directionality information by measuring encoding activity within HC/EC subregions with 7 T high resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Multivariate Bayes decoding within HC/EC subregions shows that processing of novel information most strongly engages the input structures (superficial EC and DG/CA2–3), whereas subsequent memory is more dependent on activation of output regions (deep EC and pyramidal CA1). This suggests that while novelty processing is strongly related to HC–EC input pathways, the memory fate of a novel stimulus depends more on HC–EC output.

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Full-day preschool linked with increased school readiness compared with part-day

We have been posting research of the importance of preschool for quite a while, although it doesn’t mean that it’s a clear fix if there isn’t follow up support. According to a study in the November 26 issue of JAMA, children who attended a full-day preschool program had higher scores on measures of school readiness skills (language, math, socio-emotional development, and physical health), increased attendance, and reduced chronic absences compared to children who attended part-day preschool.

If you want to get the information in 2 minutes, check this video or this interview with one of the researchers.

From the press release:

Participation in high-quality early childhood programs at ages 3 and 4 years is associated with greater school readiness and achievement, higher rates of educational attainment and socioeconomic status, and lower rates of crime. Although publicly funded preschool such as Head Start and state prekindergarten serve an estimated 42 percent of U.S. 4-year­ olds, most provide only part-day services, and only 15 percent of 3-year-olds enroll. These rates plus differences in quality may account for only about half of entering kindergartners having mastered skills needed for school success. One approach for enhancing effectiveness is increasing from a part-day to a full-day schedule; whether this improves outcomes is unknown, according to background information in the article.

Arthur J. Reynolds, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues investigated whether full-day preschool was associated with higher levels of school readiness, attendance, and parent involvement compared with part-day participation. The study consisted of an end-of-preschool follow-up of a group of predominantly low-income, ethnic minority children enrolled in the Child-Parent Centers (CPC) for the full day (7 hours; n = 409) or part day (3 hours on average; n = 573) in the 2012-2013 school year in 11 schools in Chicago.

Implemented in the Chicago Public Schools since 1967, the Midwest CPC Education Program provides comprehensive education and family services beginning in preschool. A scale-up of the CPC program began in 2012 in more diverse communities. The model was revised to incorporate advances in teaching practices and family services and included the opening of full-day preschool classrooms in some sites.

At the end of preschool, the researchers evaluated school readiness skills (in several domains) of the children, attendance and chronic absences, and parental involvement. They found that full-day preschool participants had higher scores than part-day peers on measures of socio-emotional development (58.6 vs 54.5), language (39.9 vs 37.3), math (40.0 vs 36.4), and physical health (35.5 vs 33.6). Scores for literacy (64.5 vs 58.6) and cognitive development (59.7 vs 57.7) were not significantly different.

Full-day preschool graduates also had higher rates of attendance (85.9 percent vs 80.4 percent) and lower rates of chronic absences (10 percent or greater days missed; 53.0 percent vs 71.6 percent; 20 percent or greater days missed; 21.2 percent vs 38.8 percent), but no differences in parental involvement.

“Full-day preschool appears to be a promising strategy for school readiness. The size and breadth of associations go beyond previous studies. The positive association of full-day preschool also suggests that increasing access to early childhood programs should consider the optimal dosage of services. In addition to increased educational enrichment, full-day preschool benefits parents by providing children with a continually enriched environment throughout the day, thereby freeing parental time to pursue career and educational opportunities. By offering another service option, full-day preschool also can increase access for families who may not otherwise enroll,” the authors write.

They add that these findings need to be replicated in other programs and contexts.

Abstract of the research:

Importance  Early childhood interventions have demonstrated positive effects on well-being. Whether full-day vs part-day attendance improves outcomes is unknown.

Objective  To evaluate the association between a full- vs part-day early childhood program and school readiness, attendance, and parent involvement.

Design, Setting, and Participants  End-of-preschool follow-up of a nonrandomized, matched-group cohort of predominantly low-income, ethnic minority children enrolled in the Child-Parent Centers (CPC) for the full day (7 hours; n = 409) or part day (3 hours on average; n = 573) in the 2012-2013 school year in 11 schools in Chicago, Illinois.

Intervention  The Midwest CPC Education Program provides comprehensive instruction, family-support, and health services from preschool to third grade.

Main Outcomes and Measures  School readiness skills at the end of preschool, attendance and chronic absences, and parental involvement. The readiness domains in the Teaching Strategies GOLD Assessment System include a total of 49 items with a score range of 105-418. The specific domains are socioemotional with 9 items (score range, 20-81), language with 6 items (score range, 15-54), literacy with 12 items (score range, 9-104), math with 7 items (score, 8-60), physical health with 5 items (score range, 14-45), and cognitive development with 10 items (score range, 18-90).

Results  Full-day preschool participants had higher scores than part-day peers on socioemotional development (58.6 vs 54.5; difference, 4.1; 95% CI, 0.5-7.6; P = .03), language (39.9 vs 37.3; difference, 2.6; 95% CI, 0.6-4.6; P = .01), math (40.0 vs 36.4; difference, 3.6; 95% CI, 0.5-6.7; P = .02), physical health (35.5 vs 33.6; difference, 1.9; 95% CI, 0.5-3.2; P = .006), and the total score (298.1 vs 278.2; difference, 19.9; 95% CI, 1.2-38.4; P = .04). Literacy (64.5 vs 58.6; difference, 5.9; 95% CI, −0.07 to 12.4; P = .08) and cognitive development (59.7 vs 57.7; difference, 2.0; 95% CI, −2.4 to 6.3; P = .38) were not significant. Full-day preschool graduates also had higher rates of attendance (85.9% vs 80.4%; difference, 5.5; 95% CI, 2.6-8.4;P = .001) and lower rates of chronic absences (≥10% days missed; 53.0% vs 71.6%; difference, −18.6; 95% CI, −28.5 to −8.7; P = .001; ≥20% days missed; 21.2% vs 38.8%; difference −17.6%; 95% CI, −25.6 to −9.7;P < .001) but no differences in parental involvement.

Conclusions and Relevance  In an expansion of the CPCs in Chicago, a full-day preschool intervention was associated with increased school readiness skills in 4 of 6 domains, attendance, and reduced chronic absences compared with a part-day program. These findings should be replicated in other programs and contexts.

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Interesting read: The ‘pink vs blue’ gender myth

Claudia Hammond has put together an interesting column on BBC Future on the pink for girls, blue for boys idea, showing it’s all a bit more complicated than you think.

First the easy part:

Various studies have looked at colour preferences in different age groups. In the US most have found that babies and toddlers, whether male or female, are attracted to primary colours such as red and blue. Pink doesn’t feature high on the list, although it is more popular than brown and grey.  Some studies of this age group have found blue is favoured, others red, but they rarely find any gender difference.

But there are even myths inside the myth:

But what about the idea that a century ago little boys were dressed in pink and pink for girls is only a recent fashion? It seems even that might be something of a myth too. Psychology writer Christian Jarrett describes in his new book Great Myths of the Brain, how an Italian psychologist Marco Del Giudice, who tried to find the origins of this idea, could find just four short magazine quotes, describing pink as the colour for boys. In two of these he believes that perhaps the blue and pink were accidentally swapped around. That seems unlikely to me, but when he searched a database of five million books printed in American or British English from 1800-2000 more convincing was the lack of any mentions of “pink for a boy”, even though from 1890 onwards there were increasing mentions of “pink for a girl”.

Do read the whole piece to know why pink in the pink ribbon-campaign can even have a negative effect!

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The positive effect of teacher experience on student achievement and motivation in middle school

Last week I posted a Dutch report on the effect of experience on learning. I received some remarks via twitter that this study didn’t take the quality of the teachers into account because the researchers only looked at the impact. Although the researchers noted this them selves, the critique made a correct point. This longitudinal study by Ladd & Sorensen for The National Center For Analysis Of Longitudinal Data In Education Research however does look at the quality of the individual teacher while looking at the effect of experience.

And the conclusion is clear:

Once we control statistically for the quality of individual teachers by the use of teacher fixed effects, we find large returns to experience for middle school teachers in the form both of higher test scores and improvements in student behavior, with the clearest behavioral effects emerging for reductions in student absenteeism. Moreover these returns extend well beyond the first few years of teaching.

Abstract of the research:

We use rich longitudinally matched administrative data on students and teachers in North Carolina to examine the patterns of differential effectiveness by teachers’ years of experience.
The paper contributes to the literature by focusing on middle school teachers and by extending the analysis to student outcomes beyond test scores. Once we control statistically for the quality of individual teachers by the use of teacher fixed effects, we find large returns to experience for middle school teachers in the form both of higher test scores and improvements in student behavior, with the clearest behavioral effects emerging for reductions in student absenteeism. Moreover these returns extend well beyond the first few years of teaching. The paper contributes to policy debates by documenting that teachers can and do learn on the job.

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Having the right surname sets you up for life, study claims

It’s something not that unlike Piketty is saying, but if your surname reveals that you descended from the “in” crowd in the England of 1066 — the Norman Conquerors — then even now you are more likely than the average Brit to be upper class. To a surprising degree, the social status of your ancestors many generations in the past still exerts an influence on your life chances, according to new research. It’s hard to tell if this is the same case in other countries, but it’s an interesting element to present discussions, even on education…

From the press release:

This says Gregory Clark of the University of California, Davis, in the US and Neil Cummins of the London School of Economics in the UK. They used the Oxbridge attendance of people with rare English surnames (last names) to track social mobility from 1170 to 2012. In an article in Springer’s journal Human Nature, they show that social mobility in England has always been slow and today is not much greater than it was in pre-industrial times.

Social status is generally seen as a ranking of families across such aspects of status as education, income, wealth, occupation, and health. Clark and Cummings used various databases to calculate the social trajectory of families with rare English surnames over the past 28 generations. For this purpose, they analyzed the surnames of students who attended Oxford and Cambridge universities between 1170 and 2012, rich property owners between 1236 and 1299, as well as the national probate registry since 1858. Rare surnames such as Atthill, Bunduck, Balfour, Bramston, Cheslyn, and Conyngham were included in the study.

Clark and Cummins found that social status is consistently passed down among families over multiple generations-in fact, it is even more strongly inherited than height. This correlation is unchanged over centuries, with social mobility in England in 2012 being little greater than in pre-industrial times.

Their analysis further shows that the rate of social mobility in any society can be estimated from the knowledge of just two facts: the distribution over time of surnames in the society and the distribution of surnames among an elite or underclass.

“The relative constancy of the intergenerational correlation of underlying social status across very different social environments in England from 1800 to 2012 suggests that it stems from the nature of inheritance of characteristics within families,” says Clark. “Strong forces of familial culture, social connections, and genetics must connect the generations.”

“Even more remarkable is the lack of a sign of any decline in status persistence across major institutional changes, such as the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth century, the spread of universal schooling in the late nineteenth century, or the rise of the social democratic state in the twentieth century,” adds Cummins. “Status persistence measured by education status is just as strong now as in the pre-industrial era.”

Abstract of the study:

Using educational status in England from 1170 to 2012, we show that the rate of social mobility in any society can be estimated from knowledge of just two facts: the distribution over time of surnames in the society and the distribution of surnames among an elite or underclass. Such surname measures reveal that the typical estimate of parent–child correlations in socioeconomic measures in the range of 0.2–0.6 are misleading about rates of overall social mobility. Measuring education status through Oxbridge attendance suggests a generalized intergenerational correlation in status in the range of 0.70–0.90. Social status is more strongly inherited even than height. This correlation is unchanged over centuries. Social mobility in England in 2012 was little greater than in preindustrial times. Thus there are indications of an underlying social physics surprisingly immune to government intervention.

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Interesting read if you read until the end: ‘Chalk and talk’ teaching might be the best way after all

An interesting piece on The Conversation about teaching techniques, but if you only read the first part you could get a totally wrong idea. Therefore I want to share the final part, as it’s the real reason why this article by Kevin Donnelly is so relevant:

 

There’s not just one way to teach

To argue that some teaching and learning strategies are ineffective does not mean that there is only one correct way to teach. While research suggests some practices are more effective than others, it also needs to be realised that teaching is a complex business. Teachers need various strategies.

In the early years of primary school, children need to memorise things like times tables and poems and ballads so that they can be recalled easily and automatically. Education is also about curiosity and innovation and there will be other times when rote learning will be unsuitable – for example, when students explore a topic that excites them and where they undertake their own research and analysis.

Depending on what is being taught, what has gone before and what is yet to come, whether students are well versed in a particular area of learning or are novices, and even the time of day, teachers must adapt their teaching to the situation and be flexible.

The problem arises when teachers and teacher education academics privilege one particular approach to the detriment of all others.

Some posts on this topic you should check:

But also:

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Study says: longer work hours for moms mean less sleep, higher BMIs for preschoolers

The past week we had a big discussion in the media on the work-life balance of mothers. Sadly, the discussion was seldom including the dads. Researchers now found a link between moms’ employment and overweight/obesity in preschoolers. The study investigated links between mothers’ employment status and their children’s weight over time, exploring the impact of potential mediators, such as children’s sleep and dietary habits, the amount of time they spent watching TV and family mealtime routines. This study won’t add to the discussion as such, perhaps only some extra guilt, what isn’t the intention at all.

The insights of the study:

 

  • Maternal employment predicts higher child BMI percentile a year later.
  • Child sleep hours partially mediate the link between maternal work and child BMI.
  • Other family routines did not mediate the link between maternal work and child BMI.

 

An interesting segment from the discussion of the paper with advice for educators:

Educational efforts should focus on teaching parents how much sleep young children need and the benefits of adequate sleep. Additionally, educators should provide guidance about how to help children sleep through the night uninterrupted (e.g., removing televisions from the bedroom and creating a dark and quiet space for sleep) and manage time so that an early and consistent bedtime can be established.

From the press release:

Published online by the journal Sleep Medicine, the study investigated links between mothers’ employment status and their children’s weight over time, exploring the impact of potential mediators, such as children’s sleep and dietary habits, the amount of time they spent watching TV and family mealtime routines.

“The only factor of the four that we investigated that mediated the relationship between maternal employment status and child obesity was how much sleep the child was getting each night,” said lead author Katherine E. Speirs, a postdoctoral research associate in human and community development at the University of Illinois.

Speirs and co-authors Janet M. Liechty and Chi-Fang Wu for one year followed 247 mother-child pairs from the STRONG Kids study. A health awareness initiative for families that focuses on preventing child obesity, the study is coordinated by the university’s Family Resiliency Center.

The children, who ranged from 3 to 5 years old, were weighed, measured and had their body mass index calculated at the outset of the study and again one year later.

At the second weigh-in, 17 percent of the preschoolers were overweight and 12 percent were obese, according to BMI-for-age growth charts.

Sixty-six percent of the mothers in the sample were employed full time, defined as working 35 hours or more per week. Another 18 percent of the women were employed part time, or 20 to 34 hours per week.

Children whose mothers worked full time got fewer hours of sleep than peers whose mothers worked less than 20 hours per week. The children of women who worked full time also tended to have higher BMIs at the second weigh-in.

Just 18 percent of the preschoolers in the sample were getting the 11 to 12 hours of nightly sleep recommended by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the researchers found.

On average, the children were getting about 9.6 hours of nighttime sleep. Each additional hour of nighttime sleep that a child obtained was associated with a 6.8 percent decrease in their BMI at the second weigh-in, the researchers found.

“We looked at nighttime sleep in particular, because studies show that the amount of nighttime sleep matters for regulating weight,” said Liechty, a professor of medicine and of social work.

“We think that it might be the more hours that mothers are working, the less time they have, and there may be some sort of tradeoff going on, ‘Do I spend quality time with my child or do we get to bed early?'” Speirs said. “And then in the morning, when mothers leave for work, their children also wake up early to get to day care.”

Mothers whose children were enrolled in 32 licensed day care centers in Central Illinois were recruited for the study. Sixty-six percent of the women had college degrees; about a third had household incomes under $40,000 a year, and just over half the sample had household incomes under $70,000 a year. “The challenges of ensuring that children obtain adequate sleep may be even greater for low-income women, who often hold multiple jobs or work rotating shifts or nonstandard hours,” Speirs said.

“There are lots of characteristics about mothers’ employment that are really important to help us better understand the relationship between mothers’ employment status and child obesity, such as whether women are working part time voluntarily or involuntarily, or scheduled or nonscheduled hours,” said Wu, a professor of social work. The authors are exploring some of these characteristics and possible links with child obesity in a related study, which is currently underway.

Abstract of the study:

Background

It has been established that the more time mothers spend working outside of the home, the more likely their preschool-aged children are to be overweight. However, the mechanisms explaining this relationship are not well understood. Our objective was to explore child sleep, dietary habits, TV time, and family mealtime routines as mediators of the relationship between maternal employment status (full-time, part-time, and no or minimal employment) and child body mass index (BMI) percentile.

Methods

Data were drawn from waves 1 and 2 of STRONG Kids, a prospective panel study examining childhood obesity among parent–preschooler dyads (n = 247). Mothers reported their own work hours, their child’s hours of nighttime sleep, dietary habits, TV time, and mealtime routines. Trained staff measured child height and weight.

Results

Compared to working 0–19 h/week, both full-time (>35 h/week) and part-time (20–34 h/week) employment predicted higher child BMI percentile 1 year later. Hours of child nighttime sleep partially mediated the association between maternal full-time employment and child BMI percentile. Adjusting for individual and family characteristics, children whose mothers were employed full time were less likely to sleep longer hours than children whose mothers were employed 0–19 h/week (b = −0.49, p < 0.04). Shorter child nighttime sleep was associated with higher BMI percentile (b = −7.31, p < 0.001). None of the other mediation pathways tested were significant.

Conclusions

These findings add to the growing literature on the importance of adequate sleep for young children’s health.

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Funny on Sunday: Stop looking at your phones!

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