Early Physical Health Conditions and School Readiness Skills in a Prospective Birth Cohort of U.S. Children
Melissa Kull, Boston College
Rebekah Levine Coley, Boston College
Extant research identifies associations between early physical health disparities and impaired functioning in adulthood, but limited research examines when such associations emerge. This study draws on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (Birth Cohort; N = 5,900) to assess whether early physical health disparities predict children’s cognitive, learning, and behavioral competencies at school entry. OLS regressions tested associations between a host of early health indicators measured from birth to age 5 and children’s and cognitive, learning, and behavioral skills at age 5. Results showed that maternal reports of children’s suboptimal health and hospitalizations explained unique variability in cognitive and learning skills after controlling for neonatal risks. Analyses also examined moderation by family income and child race/ethnicity, and found no significant pattern of results, suggesting robust associations between early health and school readiness skills among a nationally representative sample of U.S. children.