Abstract

This study examines how different types of social network structures are associated with early cognitive development in children. To assess how social relationships and structures are associated with early cognitive development and to elucidate whether variations in the mother's social networks alter a child's early cognitive development patterns. This cohort study used data from 1082 mother-child pairs in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center-Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning and Early Childhood project to examine the association between networks of different levels of complexity (triad, family, and neighborhood) and child cognitive performance after adjustment for the mother's IQ, birth weight, and age, and the father's educational level. The final model was adjusted for the household poverty level. Data were collected from December 2006 through January 2014 and analyzed from October through November 2018. The child-mother relationship, child-mother-father triad, family setting, child's dwelling network, mother's social support network, and neighborhood networks. Measure of cognitive development of the child using Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID) at 2 years of age. Of 1082 participants, 544 (50.3%) were males and 703 (65.1%) were African American; the mean (SD) age was 2.08 (0.12) years. Large family size had a negative association with early cognitive development, with a mean 2.21-point decrease in BSID coefficient score (95% CI, 0.40 to 4.02; P = .01). Mother's social support network size was positively associated early cognitive development, with a mean 0.40-point increase in BSID coefficient score (95% CI, 0.001 to 0.80; P = .05). Knowing many neighbors was not statistically significantly associated with early cognitive development, with a mean 1.39-point increase in BSID coefficient score (95% CI, -0.04 to 2.83; P = .06). The findings suggest that maternal social relationships are associated with cognitive development in children and that social relationships beyond the mother-child-father triad are significantly associated with children's cognitive development. This study investigates the environmental influences on child health outcomes and, specifically, how early cognitive development is associated with social networks for the primary caregiver.

Highlights

  • IntroductionBroadly defined as interconnectedness with other people, can influence behavioral and health outcomes.[1,2,3] The importance of social and relational environments for cognitive development and emotional well-being is well known.[4,5,6,7,8] Networks of social support can attenuate psychologic stress and provide support to people experiencing neurotic symptoms.[9,10,11,12] The progress that children make when forming healthy relationships during the period from birth to 5 years can have long-lasting benefits throughout their entire lives.[13] In early childhood development, relationships between children and caregivers are crucial and play an important role in socialization.[14,15,16,17] The social environment and relationships early in life are critical for children’s emotional, intellectual, and social development into adulthood and can considerably influence the child’s life-long adaptation strategy.[6,13,18,19,20,21] Social networks channel benefits and risks associated with social health determinants, such as health-related knowledge, attitudes, and capacity to cope with adversities associated with social disadvantage.[1,4,6,22,23,24]

  • Large family size had a negative association with early cognitive development, with a mean 2.21-point decrease in Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID) coefficient score

  • The findings suggest that maternal social relationships are associated with cognitive development in children and that social relationships beyond the motherchild-father triad are significantly associated with children’s cognitive development

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Summary

Introduction

Broadly defined as interconnectedness with other people, can influence behavioral and health outcomes.[1,2,3] The importance of social and relational environments for cognitive development and emotional well-being is well known.[4,5,6,7,8] Networks of social support can attenuate psychologic stress and provide support to people experiencing neurotic symptoms.[9,10,11,12] The progress that children make when forming healthy relationships during the period from birth to 5 years can have long-lasting benefits throughout their entire lives.[13] In early childhood development, relationships between children and caregivers are crucial and play an important role in socialization.[14,15,16,17] The social environment and relationships early in life are critical for children’s emotional, intellectual, and social development into adulthood and can considerably influence the child’s life-long adaptation strategy.[6,13,18,19,20,21] Social networks channel benefits and risks associated with social health determinants, such as health-related knowledge, attitudes, and capacity to cope with adversities associated with social disadvantage.[1,4,6,22,23,24]

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