Separation from parents impairs learning in kids

May 16th, 2008 - 2:08 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, May 16 (IANS) Infants who experience temporary separation from one or both parents during divorce, illness or violence are likely to face difficulties in learning at school. Previous research on such separation has concentrated on children in foster or kinship care, who are known to often experience considerable emotional, behavioural and developmental problems.

Yet little is known about the impact of separation more generally, especially in less formalised situations in which one or more parents leave temporarily.

“In most cases, separation is a marker of instability. We suspect that homes in which children are separated from their parents may be less nurturing environments,” said Sandy Jee of the University of Rochester, who led the study.

“Parents are less apt to be reading to their kids or taking time to teach them new skills, such as tying shoes, practising their letters or penning their names.”

The study analysed the lives of 1,619 children between 4 and 6 who were entering kindergarten.

Parents or caregivers were asked if their child had ever been away from a parent for more than a month, and if so, if the separation occurred once, twice, or more than three times.

These children’s developmental skills were also assessed by various observable behaviours - if the child could use scissors or tie shoelaces, for instance.

The results were then analysed to produce four-point scales, each measuring different dimensions of healthy development, including how well a child learns new tasks and how well he or she uses language to express ideas.

“We found that 18 percent of these urban children had been separated from their parents at some point in their childhood,” Jee said. “This was surprising, but not unimaginable, since poverty is often linked with volatility in homes. In fact, seven percent of these kids had been separated two or more times.”

Children separated at any point scored significantly worse both on the four-point scales measuring their ability to learn new tasks and their pre-literacy skills.

These findings are being published in the May-June issue of Ambulatory Paediatrics.

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