J. Lawrence Aber
Affiliated Faculty, NYU Wagner; Willner Family Professor of Psychology and Public Policy, NYU Steinhardt
Lawrence Aber is Willner Family Professor in Psychology and Public Policy at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, and University Professor, New York University. Dr Aber earned his Ph.D. from Yale University and an A.B. from Harvard University. He previously taught at Barnard College, Columbia University, and at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, where he also directed the National Center for Children in Poverty. He is an internationally recognized expert in child development and social policy and has co-edited Neighborhood Poverty: Context and Consequences for Children (1997, Russell Sage Foundation), Assessing the Impact of September 11th 2001 on Children Youth and Parents: Lessons for Applied Developmental Science (2004, Erlbaum) and Child Development and Social Policy: Knowledge for Action (2007, APA Publications). His basic research examines the influence of poverty and violence, at the family and community levels, on the social, emotional, behavioral, cognitive and academic development of children and youth. Dr. Aber also designs and conducts rigorous evaluations of innovative programs and policies for children, youth and families, such as violence prevention, literacy development, welfare reform and comprehensive services initiatives. Dr. Aber testifies frequently before Congress, state legislatures and other deliberative policy forums. The media, public officials, private foundations and leading non-profit organizations also frequently seek his opinion or advice about pressing matters concerning child and family well-being. In 2006, Dr. Aber was appointed by the Mayor of New York City to the Commission for Economic Opportunity, an initiative to help reduce poverty and increase economic opportunity in New York City. In 2007, Dr. Aber served as the Nannerl O. Keohane Distinguished Visiting Professor at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2008 and 2009, he served part-time as Visiting Research Professor in Evidence-based Social Interventions in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of Oxford. He is also Chair of the Board of the Children's Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa; and served as consultant to the World Bank on its project, "Children and Youth in Crisis". From 2003-2006, Dr. Aber chaired the Advisory Board, International Network on Children and Armed Conflict of the Social Science Research Council, in collaboration with the Special Representative to the Secretary General of the United Nations on Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF. Currently, he conducts research on the impact of poverty and HIV/AIDS on children's development in South Africa (in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council), and on school- and community-based interventions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee).
OBJECTIVES: To assess associations of caesarean section with body mass from birth through adolescence.
DESIGN: Longitudinal birth cohort study, following subjects up to 15 years of age.
SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Children born in 1991-1992 in Avon, UK who participated in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) (n=10 219).
OUTCOME MEASURES: Primary outcome: standardized measures of body mass (weight-for length z-scores at 6 weeks, 10 and 20 months; and body mass index (BMI) z-scores at 38 months, 7, 9, 11 and 15 years). Secondary outcome: categorical overweight or obese (BMI 85th percentile) for age and gender, at 38 months, 7, 9, 11 and 15 years.
RESULTS: Of the 10 219 children, 926 (9.06%) were delivered by caesarean section. Those born by caesarean had lower-birth weights than those born vaginally (-46.1 g, 95% confidence interval(CI): 14.6-77.6 g; P=0.004). In mixed multivariable models adjusting for birth weight, gender, parental body mass, family sociodemographics, gestational factors and infant feeding patterns, caesarean delivery was consistently associated with increased adiposity, starting at 6 weeks (+0.11 s.d. units, 95% CI: 0.03-0.18; P=0.005), through age 15 (BMI z-score increment+0.10 s.d. units, 95% CI: 0.001-0.198; P=0.042). By age 11 caesarean-delivered children had 1.83 times the odds of overweight or obesity (95% CI: 1.24-2.70; P=0.002). When the sample was stratified by maternal pre-pregnancy weight, the association among children born of overweight/obese mothers was strong and long-lasting. In contrast, evidence of an association among children born of normal-weight mothers was weak.
CONCLUSION: Caesarean delivery is associated with increased body mass in childhood and adolescence. Research is needed to further characterize the association in children of normal weight women. Additional work is also needed to understand the mechanism underlying the association, which may involve relatively enduring changes in the intestinal microbiome.
The present study examines the psychometric properties of a student-reported measure of school quality, the CFS Conditions for Learning Survey, to examine its utility as a cross-national comparative measure to evaluate UNICEF's Child Friendly Schools initiative. Factor analyses conducted on data from fifth- and sixth-grade students in 68 schools across the Philippines, Nicaragua, and South Africa revealed a core set of items that loaded highly onto each of the three dimensions of the CFS Conditions for Learning survey across all three countries. Formal tests established measurement invariance for a subset of these items, indicating that they were free from methodological bias across countries. However, meaningful differences in the country-specific structure and substantive interpretation of school quality were also detected. The results suggest that items in the CFS Conditions for Learning survey can be used to create both reliable cross-national and country-specific indicators of school quality and provide a blueprint for future psychometric work in the field of comparative child and family policy.
Over the last decade, Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programs have become one of the most widely adopted anti-poverty initiatives in the developing world. Inspired particularly by Mexico's successful program, CCTs are viewed as an effective way to provide basic income support while building children's human capital. These programs have had a remarkable global expansion, from a handful programs in the late 1990s to programs in close to 30 countries today, including a demonstration program in the United States. In contrast to many other safety net programs in developing countries, CCTs have been closely studied and well evaluated, creating both a strong evidence base from which to inform policy decisions and an active global community of practice. This paper first reviews the emergence of CCTs in the context of a key theme in welfare reform, notably using incentives to promote human capital development, going beyond the traditional focus on income support. The paper then examines what has been learned to date from the experience with CCTs in the South and raises a series of questions concerning the relevance and replicability of these lessons in other contexts. The paper concludes with a call for further knowledge sharing in two areas: between the North and South as the experience with welfare reform and CCTs in particular expands, and between behavioral science and welfare policy.
Children's trauma-related mental health problems are widespread, largely untreated and constitute significant barriers to academic achievement and attainment. Translational research has begun to identify school-based interventions to prevent violence, trauma and psychopathology. We describe in detail the findings to date on research evaluating one such intervention, the Reading, Writing, Respect, and Resolution (4Rs) Program. The 4Rs Program has led to modest positive impacts on both classrooms and children after 1 year that appear to cascade to more impacts in other domains of children's development after 2 years. This research strives not only to translate research into practice but also translate practice into research. However, considerable challenges must be met for such research to inform prevention strategies at population scale.
This study contributes to ongoing scholarship at the nexus of translational research, education reform, and the developmental and prevention sciences. It reports 2-year experimental impacts of a universal, integrated school-based intervention in social-emotional learning and literacy development on children’s social-emotional, behavioral, and academic functioning. The study employed a school-randomized, experimental design with 1,184 children in 18 elementary schools. Children in the intervention schools showed improvements across several domains: self-reports of hostile attributional bias, aggressive interpersonal negotiation strategies, and depression, and teacher reports of attention skills, and aggressive and socially competent behavior. In addition, there were effects of the intervention on children’s math and reading achievement for those identified by teachers at baseline at highest behavioral risk. These findings are interpreted in light of developmental cascades theory and lend support to the value of universal, integrated interventions in the elementary school period for promoting children’s social-emotional and academic skills.
Objective: To report experimental impacts of a universal, integrated school-based intervention in social–emotional learning and literacy development on change over 1 school year in 3rd-grade children's social–emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes. Method: This study employed a school-randomized, experimental design and included 942 3rd-grade children (49% boys; 45.6% Hispanic/Latino, 41.1% Black/African American, 4.7% non-Hispanic White, and 8.6% other racial/ethnic groups, including Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American) in 18 New York City public elementary schools. Data on children's social–cognitive processes (e.g., hostile attribution biases), behavioral symptomatology (e.g., conduct problems), and literacy skills and academic achievement (e.g., reading achievement) were collected in the fall and spring of 1 school year. Results: There were main effects of the 4Rs Program after 1 year on only 2 of the 13 outcomes examined. These include children's self-reports of hostile attributional biases (Cohen's d = 0.20) and depression ( d = 0.24). As expected based on program and developmental theory, there were impacts of the intervention for those children identified by teachers at baseline with the highest levels of aggression ( d = 0.32–0.59) on 4 other outcomes: children's self-reports of aggressive fantasies, teacher reports of academic skills, reading achievement scaled scores, and children's attendance. Conclusions: This report of effects of the 4Rs intervention on individual children across domains of functioning after 1 school year represents an important first step in establishing a better understanding of what is achievable by a schoolwide intervention such as the 4Rs in its earliest stages of unfolding. The first-year impacts, combined with our knowledge of sustained and expanded effects after a second year, provide evidence that this intervention may be initiating positive developmental cascades both in the general population of students and among those at highest behavioral risk.
The enduring impact of exposure to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on mental health and sociopolitical attitudes was examined in a sample of 427 adolescents (M = 16.20 years) and their mothers residing in New York City. Direct exposure to the terrorist attack was associated with youth depression symptoms and with mothers’ posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. There was no evidence of reciprocal effects of mother exposure on youth or of youth exposure on mothers. Although mothers reported engaging in more emotional processing coping assistance with their children, coping assistance was not associated with youth’s symptomatology. Media exposure was found to be a strong predictor of youth’s and mothers’ sociopolitical attitudes about issues such as prejudice toward immigrants, social mistrust, and current events.
This study capitalizes on recent advances in the reliable and valid measurement of classroom-level social processes known to influence children's social–emotional and academic development and addresses a number of limitations in our current understanding of teacher- and intervention-related impacts on elementary school classroom processes. A cluster randomized controlled trial design was employed to (a) examine whether teacher social–emotional functioning forecasts differences in the quality of 3rd-grade classrooms, (b) test the experimental impact of a school-based social–emotional learning and literacy intervention on the quality of classroom processes controlling for teacher social–emotional functioning, and (c) examine whether intervention impacts on classroom quality are moderated by these teacher-related factors. Results indicated (a) positive effects of teachers' perceived emotional ability on classroom quality; (b) positive effects of the 4Rs Program on overall classroom quality, net of teacher social–emotional functioning indicators; and (c) intervention effects that are robust to differences in these teacher factors. These findings support and extend recent research examining intervention-induced changes in classroom-level social processes fundamental to positive youth development.
Children and youth vary in their developmental health due to differences in family economic security and exposure to toxic stress. The economic downturn has increased the challenges facing low-income children. The ARRA and the President's first budget made significant down-payments on investments in protecting and promoting the well-being of these children. But some of those investments are temporary and must be built into baselines going forward. Many other promising avenues for policy change could be implemented through reauthorization of PRWORA and ESEA. Further, a new era of experimentation in innovative program and policies is recommended for when the economy recovers.
If the United States finally ratifies the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), will it improve the country's to effectively combat child poverty and thereby improve child well-being? This article addresses this and related questions in two ways. First, the authors examine how ratification of the CRC has influenced the efforts of other wealthy Anglophone countries to reduce child poverty. Second, they draw on lessons learned from these other countries' efforts to generate predictions about America's postratification future. The authors conclude that, while the CRC is a compelling, practical tool, a communications strategy and business plan are necessary complements to achieve desired results.
This article describes an innovative means of identifying a neighborhood typology that can be used for analyses of individual-level data that were not obtained through neighborhood-based sampling. A two-step approach was employed. First, exploratory factor analysis was used to reduce the number of neighborhood indicators to five clear factors of neighborhood characteristics. Second, a cluster analytic procedure was used to identify neighborhood types based on the five factors. These analyses resulted in a parsimonious solution of five distinct neighborhood clusters, or types, that constituted a manageable number of categories that could be used for future analyses of individuals grouped within neighborhood types. This method is a promising way to conduct neighborhood impact analyses that maximize the ability of researchers to characterize neighborhoods accurately (without sampling at the neighborhood level) while retaining the ability to conduct analyses of participants grouped within types of neighborhoods.
New York City is testing a policy of ‘Conditional Cash Transfers’, pioneered in Latin America and designed to address both the reduction of income poverty and investment in children's human capital development. Lawrence Aber examines the welfare policy lessons the NYC experiment might contain for other industrialised countries
Structural equation modeling was used to compare 6 competing theoretically based psychosocial models of the longitudinal association between life stressors and depressive symptoms in a sample of early adolescents (N= 907; 40% Hispanic, 32% Black, and 19% White; mean age at Time 1 = 11.4 years). Only two models fit the data, both of which included paths modeling the effect of depressive symptoms on stressors recall: The mood-congruent cognitive bias model included only depressive symptoms to life stressors paths (DS→S), whereas the fully transactional model included paths representing both the DS→S and stressors to depressive symptoms (S→DS) effects. Social causation models and the stress generation model did not fit the data. Findings demonstrate the importance of accounting for mood-congruent cognitive bias in stressors–depressive symptoms investigations.
Psychologists discuss the influence of social policy on children's development, and the insights and skills that developmental psychologists bring to policy and its process. Among their topics are the role of strategic communications in policy advocacy, from visions to systems of universal pre-kindergarten, new directions in prevention and intervention for teen pregnancy and parenthood, and using the Web to disseminate research and affect public policy.
Although research has clearly established that low family income has negative impacts on children's cognitive skills and social-emotional competence, less often is a family's experience of material hardship considered. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999 (N=21,255), this study examined dual components of family income and material hardship along with parent mediators of stress, positive parenting, and investment as predictors of 6-year-old children's cognitive skills and social-emotional competence. Support was found for a model that identified unique parent-mediated paths from income to cognitive skills and from income and material hardship to social-emotional competence. The findings have implications for future study of family income and child development and for identification of promising targets for policy intervention.
This paper examines complex models of the associations between family income, material hardship, parenting, and school readiness among White, Black, and Hispanic 6-year-olds, using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K). It is critical to test the universality of such complex models, particularly given their implications for intervention, prevention, and public policy. Therefore this study asks: Do measures and models of low income and early school readiness indicators fit differently or similarly for White, Black, and Hispanic children? Measurement equivalence of material hardship, parent stress, parenting behaviors, child cognitive skills, and child social competence is first tested. Model equivalence is then tested by examining whether category membership in a race/ethnic group moderates associations between predictors and young children's school readiness.
This second edition of Child Psychology: A Handbook of Contemporary Issues reflects the increasingly sophisticated and varied research methods used to examine the highly complex interactions contributing to children's cognitive, emotional, and social development. Those chapters that appeared in the previous edition have been thoroughly updated and new chapters by outstanding researchers have been introduced. In addition, there is an entirely new section on Adolescence and thorough coverage of salient Ecological Influences, which make this second edition a truly comprehensive resource on the important issues in child psychology. The volume is divided into five sections - Infancy, Preschool Years, Childhood, Adolescence, and Ecological Influences - which: * Describe the nature of development and individual variations in developmental trajectories across multiple domains * Identify the processes and mechanisms underlying developmental and contextual change * Explore the varied contexts in which development unfolds, including family, school, neighborhood, and culture * Apply cutting-edge research designs, methodologies, and analytic approaches to models of development The volume provides an invaluable and practical resource for students and instructors on a wide variety of courses, and for researchers and professionals working in the field of child development.
In this longitudinal study, the proportion of time preschoolers directed their attention away from rewarding stimuli during a delay-of-gratification task was positively associated with efficiency (greater speed without reduced accuracy) at responding to targets in a go/no-go task more than 10 years later. The overall findings suggest that preschoolers' ability to effectively direct their attention away from tempting aspects of the rewards in a delay-of-gratification task may be a developmental precursor for the ability to perform inhibitory tasks such as the go/no-go task years later. Because performance on the go/no-go task has previously been characterized as involving activation of fronto-striatal regions, the present findings also suggest that performance in the delay-of-gratification task may serve as an early marker of individual differences in the functional integrity of this circuitry.
In the political context of the reauthorization of federal welfare reform legislation, a nationally representative sample of 1,570 adults in the United States completed a survey examining the factors that affect attitudes and policy preferences with regard to aid for low-income individuals and families in the United States. This study utilized an innovative survey technique, the factorial survey methodology (Rossi & Nock, 1982), which allows for the simultaneous experimental manipulation of a large number of factors through the use of a vignette. This research demonstrates how the portrayal of difficulties faced by people in need and the ways in which they attempt to overcome these difficulties affect support for policies designed to aid low-income individuals and families. In addition, this study of public attitudes considers the role that psychological orientations of the evaluators play in judgments of families in need. In this case, we examined how the evaluators' belief that the world is a just place influences their evaluations of deservingness. Consistent with our expectations, we found that the more efforts the vignette subject engaged in improving her situation, the less deserving of government benefits she was judged to be by respondents with a strong belief in a just world. The reverse was found among respondents with a weaker belief: more efforts were associated with greater judgments of deservingness.
LaRue Allen, Yael Bat-Chava, J. Lawrence Aber, and Edward Seidman find that the emotional benefit of racial pride for black adolescents is higher in predominantly black neighborhoods than in racially mixed environments.
The authors develop and validate multidimensional and contextual profiles of competence among low-income, urban, middle adolescents (N = 560). The assessment of contextual competence was based on youth self-reports of involvement, performance, and relationship quality in the peer, school, athletic, employment, religious, and cultural contexts. A principal components analysis of these engagement indices revealed the six expected components with the addition of a component labeled self-in-context. To identify holistic, multidimensional profiles of contextual competence, scores along the seven domains were cluster analyzed. Nine clusters emerged, each representing a distinct constellation of youth experience. Profiles were associated with demographic variables and youth adjustment. Profiles reflecting high engagement in two or more contexts predicted higher self-esteem and lower depression. In contrast, profiles marked by high engagement in the contexts of athletics or employment predicted more serious delinquency. The authors discuss the implications of these findings for future research and intervention.
This paper helps document significant improvements in the child low-income rate as well as the significant decrease in the proportion of children who relied on public assistance in the United States during the 1990s. Many disadvantaged groups of children were less likely to live in poor or low-income families in the late 1990s than such children a decade earlier. The improvement in the child low-income rates of these disadvantaged groups was accompanied by a substantial increase in parental employment. However, parental employment appears to do less to protect children from economic hardship than it did a decade earlier. This paper shows that working familiesï¿½ children in many disadvantaged social groups, especially groups in medium risk ranksï¿½children in families with parents between ages 25 to 29, with parents who only had a high-school diploma, and in father-only familiesï¿½suffered the largest increase in economic hardship. Our results indicate that the increased odds of falling below low income lines among children in working families facing multiple disadvantaged characteristics and the increased proportion of these children in various subgroups of working families in the 1990s can help explain the increased economic hardship among subgroups in the medium risk ranks listed above. Finally, the paper also notes that the official measure of poverty tends to underestimate low-income rates.
Papers from a conference held May 3-4, 2001, Columbia University.
A child poverty rate of ten percent could mean that every tenth child is always poor, or that all children are in poverty for one month in every ten. Knowing where reality lies between these extremes is vital to understanding the problem facing many countries of poverty among the young. This unique study goes beyond the standard analysis of child poverty based on poverty rates at one point in time and documents how much movement into and out of poverty by children there actually is, covering a range of industrialised countries - the USA, UK, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Hungary and Russia. Five main topics are addressed: conceptual and measurement issues associated with a dynamic view of child poverty; cross-national comparisons of child poverty rates and trends; cross-national comparisons of children's movements into and out of poverty; country-specific studies of child poverty dynamics; and the policy implications of taking a dynamic perspective.
This article explores the implications of recent welfare-related policy change for the well-being of children in low income families, and for research investigating child development processes and outcomes. It provides an overview of current welfare-related policies and explores the implications for developmental researchers. The article also synthesizes early findings from research, highlighting both overall impacts and the more nuanced evidence that while families are transitioning off welfare, only a small number are transitioning out of poverty, and a subgroup of families at risk are not faring well. It then examines, from a theoretical and methodological framework, what developmental psychopathology might bring to the study of welfare-related impacts on children in the context of this complex and changing policy landscape, and what welfare researchers might bring to the field of developmental psychopathology. The article concludes with broad recommendations for both research and policy.
Almost half of the nation's children live in officially defined poverty or near-poverty. Putting a human face on this and other statistics, the authors present a disturbing and provocative composite portrait of 10 families struggling to make ends meetAfour white, two Hispanic, three black and one Hawaiian/Samoan. Bennett and Aber, both directors of Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty, and freelance journalist Shirk (a veteran St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter), identify three factorsAteen parenthood, low educational achievement and temporary or low-wage workAthat they call "the 'Bermuda Triangle' of family poverty." Add the associated risks of domestic violence, poor child care and damage to early brain development from malnutrition, preventable birth complications, environmental toxins, etc., and readers will begin to see why poverty cuts across urban, suburban and rural areas. A few of the parents profiled here battle drug addiction; one gambles; several suffer from disabling depression; one single mother bravely raises a severely disabled five-year-old son afflicted with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and a 234-pound, 12-year-old daughter. In almost all the profiled families, one or both parents work, contradicting the widespread stereotype of the poor as lazy or irresponsible. In a succinct closing chapter, the authors call for a combination of public- and private-sector measures to help prevent or reduce child poverty. The issues they raise should fuel election-year debate.
This study evaluated the short-term impact of a school-based violence prevention initiative on developmental processes thought to place children at risk for future aggression and violence and examined the influence of classroom and neighborhood contexts on the effectiveness of the violence prevention initiative. Two waves of developmental data (fall and spring) were analyzed from the 1st year of the evaluation of the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP), which includes 5053 children from grades two to six from 11 elementary schools in New York City. Three distinct profiles of exposure to the intervention were derived from Management Information System (MIS) data on between classroom differences in teacher Training and Coaching in RCCP, Classroom Instruction in RCCP, and percentages of students who are Peer Mediators. Developmental processes that place children at risk were found to increase over the course of the school year. Children whose teachers had a moderate amount of training and coaching from RCCP and who taught many lessons showed significantly slower growth in aggression-related processes, and less of a decrease in competence-related processes, compared to children whose teachers taught few or no lessons. Contrary to expectation, children whose teachers had a higher level of training and coaching in the RCCP but taught few lessons showed significantly faster growth over time in aggressive cognitions and behaviors. The impact of the intervention on children’s social cognitions (but not on their interpersonal behaviors) varied by context. Specifically the positive effect of High Lessons was dampened for children in high-risk classrooms and neighborhoods. Implications for future research on developmental psychopathology in context and for the design of preventive interventions are discussed.
Providing the latest research on effective prevention and intervention strategies for reducing youth violence, Youth Violence: Prevention, Intervention, and Social Policy is a comprehensive resource for dealing with both perpetrators and victims of violence and understanding the risk factors facing youth.
Recent research suggests that child well-being and subsequent status attainment are influenced not only by the duration of exposure to economic disadvantage during childhood, but also by the timing and sequencing of exposure. Unfortunately, traditional measures of children's economic deprivation typically fail to differentiate between exposures to disadvantage at different stages in childhood and largely ignore how economic circumstances change over time. In this article, the authors propose a new method for assessing economic disadvantage during childhood that simultaneously captures children's overall levels of exposure to economic disadvantage as well as the timing and sequencing of their exposure. This new method uses finite mixture modeling to classify children into a limited number of classes with similar histories of exposure to economic disadvantage. With this new methodology, it is possible both to assess how family characteristics affect patterns of exposure to disadvantage and to directly test alternative theories about the effect that different patterns of exposure have on achievement. The authors find that extended exposure to economic deprivation during childhood is least favorable to early adulthood achievement, but that-at least for human capital formation-the timing and sequencing of poverty also are important.