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Pathways from environmental risk to children's psychological maladjustment and resilience
ES/J001414/1, £287,654, Economic and Social Research Council This project tests how neighbourhood and family poverty and other adverse circumstances are associated with children's well-being, as gauged through emotional and behavioural outcomes. Furthermore, it investigates how factors in the child, family, school and neighbourhood - such as children's cognitions and aspirations, parental involvement, school experiences, and neighbourhood human capital - may weaken this association ("promote resilience") or, conversely, may strengthen this association. To meet these objectives, we use qualitative and quantitative data from the first four sweeps of the longitudinal Millennium Cohort Study (MCS; Centre for Longitudinal Studies). The project's theoretical framework recognises that a child's emotional and behavioural functioning is fed by the interaction of the characteristics of the child and of his/her environment in a dynamic process. We supervise a project-linked PhD thesis (using these data) on a related area: the role of aspirations in predicting children's well-being in general, and the role of child, family, school and neighbourhood factors in predicting children's aspirations. Methods Sample The data are drawn from a longitudinal survey of more than 19,000 children born in the four UK countries over a period of 12 months during 2000-2001. We use data from the first four sweeps of MCS. At the first four sweeps, children were aged 9 months, 3 years, 5 years, and 7 years. Quantitative data MCS has detailed information about children's emotional and behavioural problems and about neighbourhood and family poverty and adversity at all four sweeps. We use children's, teachers', and parents' data as well as objective child measures, such as cognitive ability. We also use administrative data from the children's schools in order to explore in detail the role of school-wide factors in predicting children's behaviour problems and children's resilience. We exploit the hitherto under-used geographical potential of MCS by linking in fine-grained external data for the immediate vicinity from small area statistics. The use of low level geography enables us to look in detail at the role of neighbourhoods in both compromising and promoting child well-being. Our main outcome is children's emotional and behavioural problems, measured at ages 3, 5 and 7 with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Qualitative data One of the factors we explore as promoting resilience is children's aspirations. Children were asked at age 7 what they would like to be when they grow up, and their responses have been recorded but not as yet coded for general use. This project builds on some pilot work we have undertaken to code these responses, initially as high or low status, gender typical or atypical, and extrinsic (e.g., aspirations reflecting imagined futures of wealth and fame) or intrinsic. We will make the quantitatively coded data on aspirations of all MCS children available through the Data Archive. Analytic approach As the main objective of this project is to map the pathways of resilience, we investigate moderator effects, and fit mediated moderation models. We carry out structural equation models within a multilevel framework. The multilevel approach accounts for the clustering of children within areas in MCS. We also estimate specialised models such as quantile models.
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