INMA: “Socioeconomic position, family context, and child cognitive development”


A new study of the Gipuzkoa and Valencia cohorts of the INMA study reflects how socioeconomic position (especially social class) and family context (especially cognitive stimulation, stress management and parental profile) are related to lower scores on the test that evaluates cognitive development.

Cognitive development is the growth and maturation of thought processes. It is a continuous evolution that, according to the developmental psychology of Jean Piaget, begins with the sensorimotor stage (from birth to approximately 2 years of age) and ends with the formal operations stage (from 11 to 15-20 years), characterized by the beginning of abstract thinking and by the use and contrast of hypotheses. Socioeconomic position increases differences in children’s cognitive development. This has traditionally been estimated through social class, educational level or employment situation. In addition to the influence of socioeconomic position, events that occur within the family context in a stable basis could influence cognitive development, such as the habit of eating together sharing experiences, or relaxing with a story in bed before going to sleep.

The recently published work analyzed the role of socioeconomic position, measured through various indicators, in cognitive development evaluated between 7 and 11 years of age, studying the role of the family context as a potential mediator. Indicators of socioeconomic position were evaluated during pregnancy (family social class, parental education, employment and disposable income) and at 7 (Gipuzkoa) and 11 (Valencia) years (At Risk of Poverty or Social Exclusion (AROPE)). Family context and cognitive development were measured with the Haezi-Etxadi Family Assessment Scale 7-11 (HEFAS 7-11) and Raven’s Colored Progressive Matrices (Raven’s CPM), respectively.

The socioeconomic position variable that was best related to cognitive development was family social class, showing that those households belonging to lower social classes had children who obtained lower cognitive scores. The indicators of socioeconomic position were related to subscales of the family context, particularly those related to cognitive stimulation, stress of mothers and fathers, and raising children. This indicated that households with more disadvantaged positions also presented worse scores on the family context scales. In this study it was found that part of the relationship between social class and cognitive development was explained by the family context. When the subscales were taken into account separately, they influenced between 5 and 11% on the relationship, while the percentage was 12% when they were taken into account as a whole.

Both socioeconomic position and family context contribute to children’s cognitive development. Equalizing policies and positive parenting programs could contribute to improving the cognitive development of children

Reference: González L, Popovic M, Rebagliato M, Estarlich M, Moirano G, Barreto-Zarza F, Richiardi L, Arranz E, Santa-Marina L, Zugna D, Ibarluzea J, Pizzi C. Socioeconomic position, family context, and child cognitive development. Eur J Pediatr. 2024 Mar 14. doi: 10.1007/s00431-024-05482-x. Epub ahead of print.

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