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How Parenting Courses Affect Families' Time-Use? Evidence from an RCT Experiment in Italy

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In recent years in Italy, as a result of the initiative by the NGO Save the Children Italia and of the government action, we have witnessed the success of the notion of “povertà educativa”, as an effective way to indicate severe inequalities in education across the country. Firstly, the aim of this paper is to shed light on the different concepts and measures of educational poverty in socio-economic literature, in order to highlight specific and innovative aspects of this idea. Moreover, the paper intends to scrutinize Save the Children’s proposal in order to monitor and tackle educational poverty as well as to show how the action of the NGO has influenced the development of Italian recent government policies against child and educational poverty.
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Objective This study estimates the effect of a targeted early childhood intervention program on global and experienced measures of maternal well-being utilizing a randomized controlled trial design. The primary aim of the intervention is to improve children’s school readiness skills by working directly with parents to improve their knowledge of child development and parenting behavior. One potential externality of the program is well-being benefits for parents given its direct focus on improving parental coping, self-efficacy, and problem solving skills, as well as generating an indirect effect on parental well-being by targeting child developmental problems. Methods Participants from a socio-economically disadvantaged community are randomly assigned during pregnancy to an intensive 5-year home visiting parenting program or a control group. We estimate and compare treatment effects on multiple measures of global and experienced well-being using permutation testing to account for small sample size and a stepdown procedure to account for multiple testing. Results The intervention has no impact on global well-being as measured by life satisfaction and parenting stress or experienced negative affect using episodic reports derived from the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM). Treatment effects are observed on measures of experienced positive affect derived from the DRM and a measure of mood yesterday. Conclusion The limited treatment effects suggest that early intervention programs may produce some improvements in experienced positive well-being, but no effects on negative aspects of well-being. Different findings across measures may result as experienced measures of well-being avoid the cognitive biases that impinge upon global assessments.
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The Parents as Teachers (PAT) program is a parent-education program that includes home visiting and is designed to begin prenatally or at birth. Through home visits, visitors called parent educators help parents to strengthen their parenting skills and knowledge of child development and to prepare young children for school. This article describes the PAT program and reports the results of evaluations of two randomized trials of PAT: (1) the Northern California (Salinas Valley) Parents as Teachers Demonstration, which served primarily Latino parents in the Salinas Valley of California's Monterey County; and (2) the Teen Parents as Teachers Demonstration, which served adolescent parents in four counties in Southern California. The two evaluations revealed small and inconsistent positive effects on parent knowledge, attitudes, and behavior, and no gains in child development or health, when analyses compared the experimental and control groups overall. However, subgroup analyses in the Salinas Valley program indicated that children in primarily Spanish-speaking Latino families benefitted more than either non-Latino or English-speaking Latino families, with significant gains in cognitive, communication, social, and self-help development. Subgroup analyses in the Teen PAT Demonstration indicated that families that received both PAT services and comprehensive case management services designed to help mothers improve their life course benefitted most. Subgroup analyses in the Salinas Valley study suggested that children in families that received more intensive services benefitted more than children whose families received less intensive services. Results from that study suggested that home visits produced about a one-month developmental advantage per 10 visits for participating children.
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This paper presents evidence on early skill formation and parental investment using an experimentally designed, home visiting program targeting disadvantaged Irish families. Program effects from pregnancy to 18 months are estimated using measures of parenting and child cognitive, noncognitive and physical development. Permutation testing, a stepdown procedure, and inverse probability weighting are applied to account for small sample size, multiple hypothesis testing, and attrition. The program's impact is concentrated on parental behaviors and the home environment with small to moderate effect sizes found. Deficits in parenting skills can be offset within a relatively short timeframe, yet continued investment may be required to observe child effects.
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While a large literature has focused on the impact of parental investments on child cognitive development, very little is known about the role of child's own investments alongside that of the parents. By using the Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we model the cognitive production function for adolescents using an augmented value-added model and adopt an estimation method that takes account of unobserved child characteristics. We find that a child's own investments made during adolescence matter more than the mother's. Our empirical results appear to be robust to several sensitivity checks.
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The allocation of children's time among different activities may be important for their cognitive and non-cognitive development. In our work we exploit time use diaries from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children to study the effect of time allocation across a wide range of alternative activities. By doing so we characterize the trade-off between the activities to which a child is exposed. On the one hand, our results suggests that time spent in educational activities, particularly with parents, is the most productive input for cognitive skill development. On the other hand, non-cognitive skills appear insensitive to alternative time allocations. Instead, these skills are greatly affected by the mother's parenting style.
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This paper considers the sources of skill formation in a modern economy and emphasizes the importance of both cognitive and non-cognitive skills in producing economic and social success, and the importance of both formal academic institutions and families and firms as sources of learning. Skill formation is a dynamic process with strong synergistic components. Skill begets skill. Early investment promotes later investment. Non-cognitive skills and motivation are important determinants of success and these can be improved more successfully and at later ages than basic cognitive skills. Methods currently used to evaluate educational interventions ignore these non-cognitive skills and therefore substantially understate the benefits of early intervention programmes and mentoring and teenage motivation programmes. At current levels of investment, American society under-invests in the very young and over-invests in mature adults with low skills.
Child care Choices and Child Outcomes, IZA World of Labor
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Del Boca D. (2015). Child care Choices and Child Outcomes, IZA World of Labor, Number 134, March.
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Saraceno C. (2018). The Long Lasting effects of educational poverty among children in Italy, CarloAlberto Notebook n.595