Parents Part, Kids Fall Short

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Screening at school entry and timely intervention may help to overcome learning lapses in children affected by parental separation.

Separation from mum or dad may pose serious learning difficulties for young children, says new research.

Children are sometimes forced to live in single-parent households due to events such as matrimonial acrimony resulting in divorce of the parents or one parent living far away due to employment reasons.

Such children experience greater emotional, behavioural and developmental problems than others, say Sandra Jee and her colleagues at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Rochester, US. More importantly, these children begin formal education with certain handicaps, they write in the latest issue of the journal Ambulatory Pediatrics.

Taking a closer look at the impact of parental separation on developmental outcomes before school entry, Jee and the others studied 1,619 children entering school, 18 per cent of whom were separated from a parent for one month or longer. They found these children to have major problems associated particularly with learning and pre-literacy. Pre-literacy is defined as a child’s ability to carry on a brief conversation, react to a story session or familiarity with some of the alphabets and sounds that the letters make.

Children in countries like the US are routinely checked by healthcare providers before they enter kindergarten, and this makes it possible to screen and identify such potential learning difficulties, the scientists argue.

For their study the researchers asked the children’s parents to fill in details on the learning, expressive language and speech scales of their wards. They compared these observations with the demographic data they received from the medical practitioners attached to the schools to arrive at their conclusion.

The scientists feel that with one in every five children facing such problems, it is not an issue that can be brushed aside. Besides, with divorce rates rising and more and more parents moving to geographically different locations for various reasons, these issues should be addressed at the policy level.

The scientists feel it’s important for primary caregivers and schools to be aware of these risks, as early intervention might be suggested to families with young children starting formal education at such a disadvantage. Remedying the challenges may better equip the children to succeed. “Timely and proactive intervention may help to improve long-term educational and vocational deficits that these children may suffer,” observes Jee.

Sources: Tjhe Telegrasph (Kolkata, India)

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