Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Lower risk factors for better learning

A study has examined the effects of maltreatment and neglect on children's pre-academic skills, as well as the role of 'executive functions' (EFs) as mediators here. This innovative approach can shed light on the relationship between risk and protective factors and the pre-academic and EF skills of at-risk preschoolers.
Lower risk factors for better learning
Studies show that early exposure to contextual risk factors can lead to detrimental consequences for children's cognitive skills. AT-RISK PRESCHOOLERS (The Future of preschoolers at risk: The mediational role of executive functions on effects of maltreatment and neglect on pre-academic skills, and the moderation of family SES and classroom quality) was an EU-funded project focused on Portuguese preschoolers.

EFs that include working memory, inhibitory control and attention shifting had not been previously examined as mediators of the effects of these risks on pre-academic skills. The development of EFs has shown to be impaired in children who have been maltreated. Additionally, the study examined the moderating effects of the socioeconomic status of the family as well as classroom quality as related to risk factors and pre-academic skills.

Propensity score matching with a comparison sample of 68 school children from 31 public school classrooms or subsidised preschools was used. The neighbourhoods selected were from four of Portugal's largest cities. Additionally, a sample of 24 at-risk preschoolers was taken along with a random sample of 44 who were not under the care of Child and Youth Protection Committees (CPCJ); together they comprised the comparison group.

Results showed considerably lower skills in mathematics, literacy and EF in the at-risk group as opposed to the comparison group. Moderating effects of classroom quality regarding the relationship between risk factors and pre-academic skills were also included.

Practical implications of the study will be useful in the child protection, education and social security sectors. It can be used to inform policy and practice in child protection and ways to intervene, as well as how to change settings to better serve at-risk children.

Related information


Risk factors, learning, maltreatment, executive functions, academic skills, preschoolers
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