Over the last several decades, America's rural communities have faced many challenges, including the contraction of the agricultural sector, jobs moving offshore, coupled with the loss of union jobs and traditional industry jobs like textiles and furniture. Despite these profound changes, numerous families continue to build their lives in rural communities, with many families living in poverty. There is surprisingly scant research on the development of children in rural poor areas and almost no literature on their transition to formal schooling. The central goal of this program project is to understand the ways in which employment, the family environment, parent-child relationships, instructional quality in the classroom, out of school activities and individual differences in the children themselves interact over time to shape the unfolding development of the children as they make the transition to school. We are studying a representative sample of all children born in 6 rural poor counties within a one year period. We now have a birth cohort of 1292 infants, oversampling for African American and poverty. This sample is diverse with respect to income level (including large numbers of children whose families are very poor), ethnicity (including both non-African American and African-American families), and their rural locations (including those who live in small towns and those more isolated in the surrounding countryside). In the first phase of this program project 8 home visits over the children's first three years of life were accomplished, collecting such data as mother/child cortisol as well as video recorded family interactions, and mother and father/grandmother interviews. In the proposed continuation of this important study, we are proposing to study the children through four school visits and two home visits as they make the transition to school from ages 4 thru 2nd Grade. The individual's projects focus on different aspects of the children's transition to school. Project I examines the development of executive functioning and emotion regulation as well as the precursors of ADHD. Project II focuses on language and literacy development with a particular focus on classroom instruction and out of school activities. Project III focuses on the processes in the home that support the transition to school, with a focus on how both mothers and fathers/grandmothers interact with their children and promote academic and social success. This research is designed to provide the information needed to understand the supports and challenges in rural communities for children as they enter school. This includes multilevel information about family and child health, family routines and practices, childcare quality, family work schedules and challenges and the development of child competencies in many areas. This information will provide the relevant information policy makers need to respond to the needs of these children, families and schools.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Program Projects (P01)
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Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1-DSR-H (VF))
Program Officer
Griffin, James
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University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Schools of Medicine
Chapel Hill
United States
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