Social policy report / Society for Research in Child Development

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Strategic frame analysis, the method advanced in this paper, allows a nuanced understanding of the role played by media and public opinion in impeding or advancing the goals of those who seek more public attention and resources allocated to youth. Strategic frame analysis relies on a series of methods adapted from traditional opinion research, media studies and cultural and cognitive fieldwork including survey research, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, media content analysis, metaphor analysis, and media effects tests. This paper applies the basic principles of strategic frame analysis to discern what Americans think about youth (especially teenagers), why they think what they do, what consequences this has for youth policy and policy advocates, and how policy advocates might best engage Americans in a discussion about positive youth development.
 
In this essay we review what is known about Head Start and argue that the program is likely to generate benefits to participants and society as a whole that are large enough to justify the program's costs. Our conclusions differ importantly from those offered in some previous reviews because we use a more appropriate standard to judge the success of Head Start (namely, benefit-cost analysis), draw on new accumulating evidence for Head Start's long-term effects on early cohorts of program participants, and discuss why common interpretations of a recent randomized experimental evaluation of Head Start's short-term impacts may be overly pessimistic. While in principle there could be more beneficial ways of deploying Head Start resources, the benefits of such changes remain uncertain and there is some downside risk.
 
This Social Policy Report considers the importance of young children’s emotional development for their school readiness, suggesting that social scientists can provide policy makers with concrete ways to conceptualize, measure and target young children’s emotional adjustment in early educational and child care settings. This Report then reviews a recent and persuasive body of rigorous research, to determine whether children’s emotional adjustment can be significantly affected by interventions implemented in the preschool and early school years. Results of this review suggest that family early educational, and clinical interventions offer policy makers a wide array of choices in ways that they can make sound investments in young children’s emotional development and school readiness. This research suggests that, while young children’s emotional and behavioral problems are costly to their chances of school success, these problems are identifiable early, are amenable to change, and can be reduced over time. What kinds of investments should policy makers be advised to make, at what point in young children’s development, and in what settings? While modest investments in low-cost interventions initially may seem appealing, this report suggests that there are few bargains to be had when investing in young children’s emotional adjustment. With this caveat in mind, the findings of this report suggest that policy makers should broaden early elementary educational mandates for school readiness to include children’s emotional and behavioral adjustments as key programmatic goals. Policy makers should consider targeting young children’s emotional adjustment prior to school entry, in diverse settings such as Head Start, child care settings, as well as in the first few years of school. Finally, young children’s emotional adjustment can serve as an important benchmark of programmatic success in other policy arenas focusing on child welfare, family support, and econ
 
This document is comprised of the four 2001 issues of a publication providing a forum for scholarly reviews and discussion of developmental research and implications for social policies affecting children. The topics featured in each of the issues are: (1) "Youth Civic Development: Implications of Research for Social Policy and Programs" (Constance A. Flanagan and Nakesha Faison); (2) "Self-Sufficiency Programs and Parenting Interventions: Lessons from New Chance and the Teenage Parent Demonstration" (Nancy E. Reichman and Sara S. McLanahan); (3) "Strategic Frame Analysis: Reframing America's Youth" (Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. and Susan Nall Bales); and (4) "Adolescents as Adults in Court: A Developmental Perspective on the Transfer of Juveniles to Criminal Court" (Laurence Steinberg and Elizabeth Cauffman). (Each issue contains references.) (KB)
 
This report provides an overview of the research on the testimony of young children in cases of sexual abuse, focusing on preschoolers' presumed suggestibility and the role of researchers and mental health professionals as expert witnesses in such cases. It does so in light of the McMartin preschool case, in which seven defendants were acquitted, after 7 years of legal proceedings, of having sexually abused a large number of preschoolers. The report examines the prevalence of child sexual abuse and the increasing acceptance by the courts of uncorroborated testimony by young children. Research is reviewed on the degree to which very young children are prone to suggestion, concluding that the most recent studies are more often ambivalent about the reliability of children's reports than earlier studies. However, recent studies suggest that there are reliable age differences in suggestibility, with preschoolers' reports more influenced by erroneous suggestions than older children's reports. Policy implications of suggestibility research are also discussed, including what expert witnesses should tell the court, the qualifications of expert witnesses, the relationship of research to clinical practice, and the role of professional organizations. (Contains 98 references.) (MDM)
 
The data on COVID‐19 show an irrefutable and disturbing pattern: Black Americans are contracting and dying from COVID‐19 at rates that far exceed other racial and ethnic groups. Due to historical and current iterations of racism, Black Americans have been forced into conditions that elevate their risk for COVID‐19 and consequently place Black children at the epicenter of loss across multiple domains of life. The current paper highlights the impact of the pandemic on Black children at the individual, family, and school levels. Based on an understanding of the influence of structural racism on COVID‐19 disparities, policy recommendations are provided that focus on equitable access to quality education, home ownership, and employment to fully address the needs of Black children and families during and after the pandemic. Research, practice, and policy recommendations are made to journal editors, funding agencies, grant review panels, and researchers regarding how research on COVID‐19 should be framed to inform intervention efforts aimed at improving the situation of Black children and families.
 
Demographics of the SRS V1 and SRS V2 Samples
"What's Going Well": Percentage of Categories Mentioned, by Ethnicity, Gender, and Division
"Worries": Percentage of Categories Mentioned by Ethnicity, Gender, and Division
"Improvements": Percentage of Categories Mentioned by Ethnicity, Gender, and Division
This is a mixed-methods study of risk and resilience in a sample of over 14,000 students from 49 schools, assessed during the first 3 months of COVID-19 in the United States. Over a third of students were of color and almost a third received financial aid. Participation rates were typically 90–99%. Overall, rates of clinically significant depression and anxiety were lower during distance learning in 2020 as compared to parallel rates documented during 2019, with a few exceptions. Hispanic students did not show reductions in depression rates, nor did gender non-binary youth. Analyses of multiple risk and protective factors showed that in relation to depression, the most potent predictor was parent support, with effect sizes at least twice as high as those for any other predictor. Other robust predictors of depression included efficacy of learning online and concerns heard by school adults. In predicting to anxiety, parent support again had the largest effect sizes, followed by concerns heard at school, students’ worries about their futures, and worries about grades. In general, the absence of protective factors was more likely to be linked with high distress among youth of color than White students, and among girls and gender non-binary students as compared to boys. At a policy level, the findings call for concerted attention to the well-being of adults charged with caring for youth. Parents’ mental health has been increasingly threatened with the protracted stress linked with the pandemic. Thus, all avenues must be considered toward providing them with support—using feasible, community-based interventions—as this is always the most important step in fostering children's resilience through adversity. Additionally, schools’ expectations about learning will have to be adjusted. As educators try to make up for academic losses during the pandemic, they must avoid high workloads detrimental for students’ mental health (and thus ability to learn). Finally, there must be ongoing institutional mental health support for teachers, counselors, administrators, and staff. Many of these adults have provided critical safety nets for youth since the start of the pandemic and are themselves at high risk for burnout. In conclusion, findings clearly show that if a central societal goal is to maximize resilience among youth through the continuing pandemic related challenges, we will have to deliberately prioritize an “upstream” approach, ensuring ongoing support for the adults who take care of them in their everyday lives.
 
In recent years, families with children from the Northern Triangle countries of Central America constitute a large and growing proportion of migrants and overall filed asylum claims. In an effort to deter overall immigration through the U.S.–Mexico border, the executive branch under the Trump administration has made substantial changes to federal immigration and asylum policy in recent years. Given the sensitive nature of early development and the hardship and trauma that many migrant children have experienced, immigration policies that do not prioritize child wellbeing, and in fact, neglect or harm it, can have lifelong negative consequences on physical and psychological wellbeing. In light of the scope of children and families affected by these policies and potential magnitude of their effects, the present review aimed to: 1) outline federal immigration policies under the Trump administration that primarily impacted migrant children and families; 2) review the research base regarding the effects of these policies on physical safety and health, development, mental health, family wellbeing, and education; and 3) provide policy recommendations to prevent further harm, mitigate the great harm already done, and prioritize child wellness moving forward. Findings from the review indicate that even short experiences of detention, particularly when children are separated from parents and caregivers, are associated with serious, lasting negative effects across every domain of functioning. The practices of separation, detention, and removal to temporary encampments compound traumatic experiences that migrant families are often fleeing, which in turn may set up already vulnerable children for a trajectory of continued marginalization. Future directions for research and implications for policy and practice are discussed.
 
A variety of civic actors—government, associations, and local agencies—work to help parents advance the vitality of our youngest children. Empirical findings accumulating over the past half‐century identify benefits for infants and toddlers stemming from three policy models: paid leave for parents after a newborn arrives; regular pediatric assessments, including home visiting; and quality caregivers situated in homes or centers. We review what is known about the effects of these policies, along with constituent elements of quality (mediators) that operate proximal to children's health, cognitive, and emotional growth. Much has been learned about how such collective action, carried out by local organizations, advance infant–toddler development. Methodological advances foster new knowledge: moving closer to causal inferences and pinpointing social mechanisms that enrich infant–toddler settings. Less well understood is how policy levers can move the malleable elements of program quality to raise the magnitude or sustainability of program effects. We note the benefits of income‐support efforts for fragile families, while urging new work on how economic dynamics touch the capacity of parents and caregivers to better nurture infants and toddlers.
 
In the United States, there are significant disparities in the oral health of children from families with high and low socioeconomic status and between majority and minority children. Extant research on these health differences has focused predominately on caregiver knowledge, beliefs, and practices as well as structural barriers such as Medicaid coverage, dentist availability, and transportation issues. Little attention has been paid to the quality of care families experience when taking their child to the dentist or the ways in which dental schools train their students to work with young children. This policy report describes some of the experiences of low‐income and ethnically diverse young children and their parents in dental clinics and highlights some of the weaknesses of dental training. We contend that increasing the standards for dental training and practice are necessary for improving young children's oral health and reducing these disparities.
 
Foster care provides round‐the‐clock substitute care for nearly 700,000 U.S. children who are temporarily or permanently separated from their family of origin each year. Each state manages its own foster care system according to federal regulations. Despite numerous large‐scale federal policy reforms over the past several decades, substantial concerns remain about the experiences and outcomes of children in the foster care system. The most recent effort to reform foster care, the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018, attempts to both reduce the use of foster care and increase the quality of care. In this report, we review how policy has shaped the experiences and outcomes of children in foster care, where policy has succeeded, and where it falls short of achieving its goals. We then identify opportunities for federal and state policy to better support the safety, health, and well‐being of children in foster care.
 
In the United States, more than 5.4 million children and adolescents under age 18 provide care for family members who are aging or have chronic illness, disability, or other health conditions that require assistance. In this policy report, we describe youth’s care for the family, and highlight the increasing prevalence, global challenges, and uneven successes of measurement and categorization. We briefly summarize research on how caregiving affects youth’s academic, social, and emotional well‐being. Next, we present novel, emerging evidence from the public school‐based 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey for the State of Florida, which suggests that as many as 24% of middle school students and 16% of high school students provide at least some care to the family on a regular basis. Drawing on this evidence, we discuss targeted social programs which have been shown to promote the well‐being of caregiving youth outside of the United States, as well as a 13‐year‐old school‐based intervention in The School District of Palm Beach County, Florida. We conclude with specific recommendations for a path toward recognizing and supporting caregiving youth via policy and practice in the United States. Our aim is to increase the awareness and feasibility of identifying and supporting caregiving youth and their families via government‐organized data collection and targeted social policies.
 
Top-cited authors
C. Cybele Raver
  • New York University
Jacquelynne S Eccles
  • University of California, Irvine
Vivian Tseng
  • William T. Grant Foundation
Joseph L. Mahoney
  • Panorama Education
David L. Dubois
  • University of Illinois at Chicago