University of Pennsylvania study: Parents’ education affects child’s working memory

8 May

Teachers and administrators as well as many politicians if they are honest know that children arrive at school at various points on the ready to learn continuum. Teachers have to teach children at whatever point on the continuum the children are. Jay Matthews reports in the Washington Post article, Try parent visits, not parent takeovers of schools. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/try-parent-visits-not-parent-takeovers-of-schools/2012/05/30/gJQAlDDz2U_story.html
The key ingredient is parental involvement. The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (Council) has a great policy brief on parental involvement. http://www.wccf.org/pdf/parentsaspartners_ece-series.pd
Parent involvement is crucial to the success of children.

Daniel S. Dinsmoor, Ph. D. wrote the article, Why is Working Memory Important?

Working memory is usually classified as having two forms. The first is verbal working memory and the second is visual-spatial working memory. Verbal working memory involves being able to remember things that are said to us and the manipulation of language based cognitive material. Visual-spatial working memory is used to remember anything that is seen. So this could include sequences of events, visual patterns and images. Visual-spatial working memory is often involved in mathematical skills. Children vary in terms of the size of their working memory capacity. Research into working memory gives us factual information about how this cognitive process develops. We know for example, that working memory gradually increases through childhood into early adulthood. Generally speaking, a child at five years of age can hold one item in mind, a seven years old child can hold two items in mind, a 10 -year-old can hold three items, and a 14 year old can hold four items in mind. A child who has a working memory capacity that’s much greater than other children in his class, may find class boring and unmotivating. A child whose working memory capacity is much smaller relative to other members in the class may experience the academic work as being such a struggle that they no longer can continue to be motivated to do it.
Contrary to what one might expect, how many years in preschool a child has does not affect working memory. That is, starting preschool at an early age does not increase working memory capacity. Similarly, parent’s social economic level or their number of years of education does not correlate well with the working memory capacity of their child.
Without intervention, difficulties with working memory do not improve over time (we will discuss interventions that help later in this article). So if a child in the third grade is seen to have a significant problem with working memory, that child will also have a significant problem with working memory in high school.
Recent research indicates that working memory is even more important than IQ in terms of determining educational outcome. It is possible to understand in this context why there are some very bright children who are not succeeding in the classroom. There is a correlation between working memory and Attention Deficit Disorder. The correlation is not perfect, but there is a fairly substantial overlap between those two types of problems. It is interesting to see that some researchers in the study of ADD, inattentive type suggest that working memory challenges are an essential element in the disorder…. http://www.familycompassgroup.com/articles/attentionLearningChallenges/110428_workingMemory.php

MedicineNet.com defines working memory in the article, Definition of Working memory:

Working memory is a system for temporarily storing and managing the information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. Working memory is involved in the selection, initiation, and termination of information-processing functions such as encoding, storing, and retrieving data.
One test of working memory is memory span, the number of items, usually words or numbers, that a person can hold onto and recall. In a typical test of memory span, an examiner reads a list of random numbers aloud at about the rate of one number per second. At the end of a sequence, the person being tested is asked to recall the items in order. The average memory span for normal adults is 7 items. http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=7143

The University of Pennsylvania researchers studied working memory in a longitudinal study. See, Penn and CHOP Researchers Track Working Memory From Childhood Through Adolescence http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/news/penn-and-chop-researchers-track-working-memory-childhood-through-adolescence

Science Daily reported in the article, Working memory differs by parents’ education; effects persist into adolescence:

Working memory — the ability to hold information in your mind, think about it, and use it to guide behavior — develops through childhood and adolescence, and is key for successful performance at school and work. Previous research with young children has documented socioeconomic disparities in performance on tasks of working memory. Now a new longitudinal study has found that differences in working memory that exist at age 10 persist through the end of adolescence. The study also found that parents’ education — one common measure of socioeconomic status — is related to children’s performance on tasks of working memory, and that neighborhood characteristics — another common measure of socioeconomic status — are not. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, West Chester University, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, appears in the journal Child Development…. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140430083137.htm#

Citation:

Working memory differs by parents’ education; effects persist into adolescence

Date: April 30, 2014

Source: Society for Research in Child Development
Summary:
A new longitudinal study has found that differences in working memory — the ability to hold information in your mind, think about it, and use it to guide behavior — that exist at age 10 persist through the end of adolescence. The study also found that parents’ education — one common measure of socioeconomic status — is related to children’s performance on tasks of working memory. The researchers studied more than 300 10- through 13-year-olds over four years.
Journal Reference:
1. Daniel A. Hackman, Laura M. Betancourt, Robert Gallop, Daniel Romer, Nancy L. Brodsky, Hallam Hurt, Martha J. Farah. Mapping the Trajectory of Socioeconomic Disparity in Working Memory: Parental and Neighborhood Factors. Child Development, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12242

Here is the press release from the Society for Research in Child Development:

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
30-Apr-2014
Contact: Hannah Klein
hklein@srcd.org
202-289-0320
Society for Research in Child Development
Working memory differs by parents’ education; effects persist into adolescence
Working memory—the ability to hold information in your mind, think about it, and use it to guide behavior—develops through childhood and adolescence, and is key for successful performance at school and work. Previous research with young children has documented socioeconomic disparities in performance on tasks of working memory. Now a new longitudinal study has found that differences in working memory that exist at age 10 persist through the end of adolescence. The study also found that parents’ education—one common measure of socioeconomic status—is related to children’s performance on tasks of working memory, and that neighborhood characteristics—another common measure of socioeconomic status—are not.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, West Chester University, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, appears in the journal Child Development.
“Understanding the development of disparities in working memory has implications for education,” according to Daniel A. Hackman, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Pittsburgh who led the study when he was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. “Persistent disparities are a potential source of differences in academic achievement as students age and as the demands of both school work and the social environment increase.
“Our findings highlight the potential value of programs that promote developing working memory early as a way to prevent disparities in achievement,” Hackman continues. “The fact that parents’ education predicts working memory suggests that parenting practices and home environments may be important for this aspect of cognitive development and as a fruitful area for intervention and prevention.”
To look at the rate of change in working memory in relation to different measures of socioeconomic status, the researchers studied more than three hundred 10- through 13-year-olds from urban public and parochial schools over four years. The sample of children was racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse. Each child completed a number of tasks of working memory across the four-year period. The researchers gathered information on how many years of education the parents of each child had completed, as well as on neighborhood characteristics, looking—for example—at the degree to which people in a child’s neighborhood lived below the poverty line, were unemployed, or received public assistance.
Neither parents’ education nor living in a disadvantaged neighborhood was found to be associated with the rate of growth in working memory across the four-year period. Lower parental education was found to be tied to differences in working memory that emerged by age 10 and continued through adolescence. However, neighborhood characteristics were not related to working memory performance.
The study suggests that disparities seen in adolescence and adulthood start earlier in childhood and that school doesn’t close the gap in working memory for children ages 10 and above. Generally, children whose parents had fewer years of education don’t catch up or fall further behind by the end of adolescence, when working memory performance reaches mature levels.
That said, the findings of this study do not suggest that working memory is not malleable. Interventions that strengthen working memory in children, such as training games, may help children with lower levels of working memory improve and reduce disparities.
###
The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Summarized from Child Development, Mapping the Trajectory of Socioeconomic Disparity in Working Memory: Parental and Neighborhood Factors by Hackman, DA (currently at University of Pittsburgh, formerly at University of Pennsylvania), Betancourt, LM (The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), Gallop, R (West Chester University), Romer, D (University of Pennsylvania), Brodsky, NL (The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), Hurt, H (The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine), and Farah, MJ (University of Pennsylvania). Copyright 2014 The Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. All rights reserved.

It is going to take coordination between not only education institutions, but a strong social support system to get many of children through school. This does not mean a large program directed from Washington. But, more resources at the local school level which allow discretion with accountability. For example, if I child is not coming to school because they have no shoes or winter coat, then the child gets new shoes and/or a coat. School breakfast and lunch programs must be supported and if necessary, expanded. Unfortunately, schools are now the early warning system for many families in crisis.

Related:

Tips for parent and teacher conferences https://drwilda.com/2012/11/07/tips-for-parent-and-teacher-conferences/

Common Sense Media report: Media choices at home affect school performance
https://drwilda.com/2012/11/01/common-sense-media-report-media-choices-at-home-affect-school-performance/

Parents can use tax deductions to pay for special education needs
https://drwilda.com/2012/10/24/parents-can-use-tax-deductions-to-pay-for-special-education-needs/

Intervening in the lives of truant children by jailing parents
https://drwilda.com/2012/10/07/intervening-in-the-lives-of-truant-children-by-jailing-parents/

Making time for family dinner https://drwilda.com/2012/09/10/making-time-for-family-dinner/

Embracing parents as education leaders https://drwilda.com/2012/11/28/embracing-parents-as-education-leaders/

Where information leads to Hope. Dr. Wilda.com

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Blogs by Dr. Wilda:

COMMENTS FROM AN OLD FART© http://drwildaoldfart.wordpress.com/

Dr. Wilda Reviews © http://drwildareviews.wordpress.com/

Dr. Wilda © https://drwilda.com/

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