New research from the Institute of Education has revealed the corrosive effect of persistent poverty on children's cognitive development regardless of parenting skills or family circumstances.

Researchers found that seven-year-olds who have lived in poverty since infancy perform up to 10 times worse in a range of ability tests than a similar child who has no early experience of poverty.

Professor Andy Dickerson and Dr Gurleen Popli of the University of Sheffield, analysed data on almost 8,000 children in the first study examining the impact of persistent poverty in modern Britain.

4Children CEO Anne Longfield believes this latest research shows the need for greater support from the government for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

She said: "Despite efforts to reduce child poverty and inequality by governments past and present, this research from the Institute of Education paints a troubling and urgent picture which must not be ignored. 

"Undoubtedly, there is a need for national and local government to refocus and coordinate efforts to tackle child poverty and promote better outcomes for the nation's poorest children. Families must not be left to sink into poverty and deprivation. Early intervention is key, and the first step in that process is ensuring that families are provided with the necessary economic and parenting support."

The researchers looked at whether children were in poverty at 9 months, 3 years, 5 years and 7 years and found that those poor at every stage scored significantly lower on tests for vocabulary, pattern construction, picture recognition and reading.

Critically researchers also found that poverty has a greater impact on cognitive development than factors such as whether or not parents read to their children, take them to the library, or help them with reading, writing and maths.

Prof Dickerson concluded: "Much is made of the importance of parenting for children's cognitive development but importantly, our analysis shows that low income has a two-fold effect on children's ability: it has an effect on children regardless of anything their parents do, but it also has an impact on parenting itself."

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Posted 14/06/2012 by