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Title: Neighbourhoods and children's social and cognitive development : pathways of effects
Author: Heilmann, A.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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Background: The relevance of neighbourhoods for inequalities in children’s development, while receiving increasing attention, is still debated. This PhD thesis aimed to examine whether children’s place of residence influenced their social and cognitive development, and to test two specific pathways through which such place effects might operate. It was hypothesised that schools contribute to the variability in children’s socio-emotional and cognitive outcomes across neighbourhoods, and further, that neighbourhood characteristics affect children via maternal psychological distress and parenting. Methods: Participants were 7-year-old children and their mothers from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Cross-classified multilevel models were run to simultaneously estimate the variability in the child outcomes between neighbourhoods and schools; and to examine potential mediating effects via maternal psychological distress and selected parenting behaviours. Results: Most of the variability in children’s socio-emotional difficulties across neighbourhoods and schools was explained by the clustering of children from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. However, for children’s cognitive test performance, considerable variability between neighbourhoods and schools remained even after allowing for such compositional effects. Structural neighbourhood factors such as median household income were associated with cognitive outcomes, while neighbourhood social processes were related to children’s socio-emotional development. The data did not support a mediating role for maternal psychological distress in relation to teacher-reported socio-emotional difficulties or cognitive test performance. However, maternal psychological distress was on the pathway between social processes in the neighbourhood and socio-emotional difficulties reported by the mother. There was no evidence to suggest mediation via the examined parenting practices. Conclusions: Children’s experiences within their neighbourhoods and schools contribute to their social and cognitive development. Schools appear to be an important area for investment. However, given the fundamental role of families’ individual circumstances, an integrated approach is needed which combines policies directed at schools and neighbourhoods with measures that support children and their families directly.
Supervisor: Kelly, Y. ; Watt, R. ; Stafford, M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available