This study aims to address an open question about the longitudinal relationship between the early home environment and the development of children’s numeracy skills. Data analysis is currently on-going thus this report provides a summary of the rationale and methods of the study.
What do we know about the home environment and numeracy skills?
Predictors of early educational outcomes for children have been widely researched within the field of educational, cognitive, and developmental psychology for many decades (Sirin, 2005). Previous research has suggested that the quality of the home environment is not only important, but predictively linked to a child’s social and academic outcomes (Bakermans-Kranenburg, Van IJzendoorn and Bradley, 2005; Melhuish et al., 2008).
Typically, home environment has been conceptualised as a proxy of socio-economic status (SES) when predicting early educational outcomes for children. This is due to SES, as a domain, capturing many aspects of the home environment, for example: lone parent status, parental employment, household composition, family income, and parental education. Indeed, each of these SES indicators have also been found to impact the educational outcomes of a child (see for example, Biblarz and Raftery, 1999; Bradley and Corwyn, 2002). However, more recently, studies have found that nuanced measures of the home environment are significant predictors of reading and maths achievement for children (Anders et al., 2012; Melhuish et al., 2008).
Interestingly, recent research has shown the quality of the home environment is specifically important for the development of early number skills, thus supporting the argument for home environment to be considered independently from other SES proxies. For instance, Kleemans, Peeters, Segers and Verhoeven, 2012 found that parent-child numeracy activities and parents’ numeracy expectations are unique and important predictors of early numeracy, after controlling for linguistic and cognitive child factors. This emphasises the importance of home numeracy experiences on early numeracy skills development Huntsinger, Jose and Luo (2016).
The Preparing for Life intervention
The Preparing for Life (PFL) programme aimed to improve school readiness by intervening during pregnancy and working with families until children started school (Doyle, Cheevers, Finnegan, McEntee and McNamara, 2009). Based upon key theories of child development this programme was designed to improve children’s school readiness by assisting lowincome parents in developing skills for their child starting school. Researchers compiled a multidimensional programme that targeted a range of child outcomes including; cognitive development, physical health and motor skills, socio-emotional development, approaches to learning, and language development. The PFL programme was evaluated using a randomised controlled trial (RCT) design, with participants randomly assigned to either a low or high treatment group. Families in both groups (low and high treatment) experienced support from a key worker and received additional preschool and health related information. The high treatment group received additional home visits from a mentor and training through a parenting scheme. The home environment was measured in participating families when the study child was six, eighteen, thirty-six, and forty-eight months of age. Early numeracy skills were measured when the child was aged forty-eight months.
The current study
This study used the PFL dataset (Northside Partnership, Doyle and UCD Geary Institute PFL Evaluation Team, 2018), which provides unique longitudinal data, to explore the relationships between home environment in the development of numeracy skills. To date, no other study that investigates early numeracy skills has included home environment measures from infancy.
The overall aims of the current study were:
- to identify if group membership (high or low treatment group) predicts numeracy skills, as measured by the British Ability Scales, Second Edition: Early Number Concepts scale (BASII; Elliott, Smith and McCulloch, 1997);
- to investigate if home environment scores measured in infancy, toddlerhood and early childhood predict numeracy skills; and,
- to investigate if home environment measures predict numeracy skills after controlling for socio-economic status. Status of the current study The results are currently in preparation and are being submitted to Frontiers in Psychology for peer review. This research is supported by the Children’s Research Network Prevention and Early Intervention Research Initiative Research Grant Scheme 2017-18.