Early exposure to contextual risk factors can have dramatic consequences for children’s cognitive skills. My postdoctoral work will focus on the effects of maltreatment and neglect, and the mediational role of executive functions, on the pre-academic skills of 200 Portuguese preschoolers under the care of Child and Youth Protection Committees [CPCJ]. I also propose to examine the moderating effects of family socioeconomic status and classroom quality in the relationship between these risk factors and pre-academic skills. To address these issues, I will conduct a study of pre-academic and executive function skills of CPCJ preschoolers. I will also use propensity score matching with a comparison sample of 100 randomly selected children from the same preschools to address self-selection bias of children into the risk group. This innovative approach will provide a better understanding of the relationship between risk and protective factors and the pre-academic and executive function skills of Portuguese preschoolers at-risk. This study will have considerable practical implications across the sectors of child protection, education, and social security. First, it will inform policy and practice in child protection on how to intervene and develop programs to interrupt the cycle of violence and disadvantage in the families of at-risk children. Second, it will demonstrate how to change early educational settings to best serve the youngest and most at-risk members of society. Third, it will influence the way we target social security resources to at-risk populations.
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