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Self-regulation and cognitive development of infants facing poverty

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Developmental and learning difficulties of infants from impoverished families

Children who grow up in families struggling with poverty experience significant adversity early on in life, increasing their risk of developing learning difficulties. EU-funded research has contributed a better understanding of the social and cognitive basis of the developmental difficulties these children face.


The project SRCD-IP (Self-regulation and cognitive development of infants facing poverty) was established to advance early screening and intervention strategies that are cost effective and easy to deliver. The initiative leveraged research in cognitive neuroscience and examined how infant-parent interactions relate to later cognitive and language development. Researchers focused on how infants' emerging abilities to regulate their attention and behaviour can offset the effects of early socioeconomic hardships. The study involved 120 infants (ranging in age from 5 to 24 months) from families of high and low socioeconomic status. The team used a range of cognitive, social and emotional development measures in studying behaviour and brain activity. Pilot-phase testing of 30 infants supported the development of a new coding scheme for analysing infant-parent interactions. While data analyses are still ongoing, important preliminary findings have already emerged. These include the effects of the physical home environment on infant ability to process visual information and the role of infant-parent mutual play in the first months of life. Beyond the project's scientific progress, SRCD-IP has contributed greatly to developing infant psychological research in Poland. The team established Babylab UW, an infancy research laboratory hosted at the University of Warsaw. The only one of its kind in Poland, the lab supports state-of-the-art study of neurocognitive development in very young children. The project also set up training and development opportunities for Polish scientists, focusing on infant psychological research methods. The research team collaborated with European experts in developmental disorders, and networked and created joint working groups. Efforts resulted in additional grant applications and the development of larger-scale research projects dedicated to infant brain and cognitive development. Other actions included outreach activities and engaging with relevant professional groups regarding future research and work on new technologies for screening at-risk infants. Project work has important social implications. The findings can be used to inform policy and develop strategies that improve long-term developmental and scholastic outcomes of children raised in low-socioeconomic households.


Learning difficulties, infants, poverty, SRCD-IP, self-regulation, cognitive development

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