Duration and Developmental Timing of Poverty and Children's Cognitive and Social Development From Birth Through Third Grade


  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network

  • This study was directed by a steering committee and supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) through a cooperative agreement (U10) that calls for scientific collaboration between the grantees and the NICHD staff. Participating investigators, in alphabetical order, are Virginia Allhusen, University of California, Irvine; Jay Belsky, Birkbeck University of London; Cathryn Booth-LaForce, University of Washington; Robert Bradley, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; Celia A. Brownell, University of Pittsburgh; Margaret Burchinal, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Susan B. Campbell, University of Pittsburgh; K. Alison Clarke-Stewart, University of California, Irvine; Martha Cox, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Sarah L. Friedman, NICHD; Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, Temple University; Aletha Huston, University of Texas at Austin; Jean F. Kelly, University of Washington; Bonnie Knoke, Research Triangle Institute; Nancy Marshall, Wellesley College; Kathleen McCartney, Harvard University; Fred Morrison, University of Michigan; Phil Nader, University of California, San Diego; Marion O'Brien, University of North Carolina at Greensboro; Margaret Tresch Owen, University of Texas at Dallas; Ross Parke, University of California, Riverside; Chris Payne, University of North Carolina at Greensboro; Robert Pianta, University of Virginia; Wendy Robeson, Wellesley College; Susan Spieker, University of Washington; Deborah Lowe Vandell, University of Wisconsin–Madison; and Marsha Weinraub, Temple University. We thank our study coordinators at each site who supervised the data collection, the research assistants who collected the data, and especially the families, teachers, and child care providers who participated in the study.

concerning this article should be addressed to NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, OEP, Office of the Director, NICHD, 6100 Executive Boulevard, Room 4A01, Rockville, MD 20852.


Relations of duration and developmental timing of poverty to children's development from birth to age 9 were examined by comparing children from families who were never poor, poor only during the child's infancy (0–3 years of age), poor only after infancy (4–9 years of age), and chronically poor. Chronically poor families provided lower quality childrearing environments, and children in these families showed lower cognitive performance and more behavior problems than did other children. Any experience of poverty was associated with less favorable family situations and child outcomes than never being poor. Being poor later tended to be more detrimental than early poverty. Mediational analyses indicated that poverty was linked to child outcomes in part through less positive parenting.