School to continue study of local families and children as part
of large-scale national effort
Eight-year-old Kathryn, one of the children participating
in Curry School professor Robert Pianta's study of child development,
works on a questionnaire about playmates with recent U.Va.
graduate Sarah Antos, a lab visit coordinator.
Ida Lee Wootten
Curry School of
Education has received significant federal funding to continue
its partici- pation in the nation's largest long-term study investigating
National Institute of Child Health and Development has awarded
U.Va.'s Curry School more than $2.5 million over the next five
years to continue its study of children in approximately 120 local
families who have been followed since birth. The funding, which
began in January, allows the researchers to continue chronicling
the lives of children of the 1990s into the 21st century.
investigation began in 1991 to determine the effects of child
care experiences on young children from birth to age 7. The study,
which is following more than 1,100 children nationwide at 10 sites,
has examined a wide variety of issues related to young children's
needs, including anxiety over separating from mom or dad, effects
of day care, and factors influencing school success in the early
new funding allows researchers to expand the long-term project
to investigate the numerous factors that influence child development
in elementary school and through early adolescence. They will
focus on gathering data on third- and fifth-grade students and
their parents through home visits, school observations, laboratory
interactions, phone interviews with children and parents, and
questionnaires with teachers in second through fifth grades.
observing children in their third- and fifth-grade classrooms,
the study will provide an unprecedented snapshot of elementary
schools across the country," said principal investigator
Robert C. Pianta, professor in U.Va.'s Curry School.
are studying all factors related to child development, including
pubertal development. The information we gain should be important
in understanding children as they begin adolescence," he
study will examine children's academic, social and psychological
development by studying multiple factors influencing their environment,
including parents' work, the home and family, the neighborhood
and community, school and out-of school settings, and socioeconomic
and cultural backgrounds.
research will focus on three principal areas of child development:
achievement and cognition, social and emotional growth, and health.
funding allows us to examine several major factors influencing
children in third and fifth grades -- a major transition period
in which peers begin to play major roles in children's lives,"
grant allows us to broaden the study to look at children's physical
activity and health -- an important new area of investigation
for us because of the possible correlation between physical activity
and self-esteem," he said.
In an effort to better understand how development may differ in
boys and girls, the researchers will also investigate gender differences.
this study Pianta hopes to learn about four new areas of information:
the interplay between children's early and current experiences;
the extent to which social, cultural and economic differences
influence children's development; the ways in which family and
peer experiences contribute to children's risk-taking and resilience;
and the relationships between parents' work and family life and
the well-being of parents and their children.
"In our previous work, family factors accounted for the highest
proportion of differences among children. It will be interesting
to see if that finding holds or if peers and schools begin to
play a more prominent role," Pianta said.
In the nine years since the study began, the findings of the Charlottesville-area
families have been consistent with those at the other research
sites. Among the findings so far:
High quality, stimulating child care is related to slightly
higher performance on young children's cognitive and language
Children in care for more than 10 hours per week performed better
on cognitive and language measures when the quality of the caregiver-child
interaction was taken into account.
The higher the quality of child care in the first three years
of life, the greater the child's language abilities are at 15,
24 and 36 months.
an analysis of the regulatory factors pertaining to child care,
such as child-teacher ratio and caregiver training, the researchers
found that the quality of child care is higher when child care
settings meet more higher standards.
research shows that state regulations play a major role in supporting
high-quality day care," Pianta said.
addition to directing this study, Pianta is also leading the U.Va.
site in the federally funded National Center for Early Development
and Learning. That study is investigating the processes related
to children's successful transitions into the early grades.