Session 5 abstracts

Welcome to session 5 on day 1 (15:55 – 16:40)




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Track 1 - Parenting

Breastfeeding norms and the effectiveness of public health recommendations
Study: The Baby-Friendly Initiative

Bastien Chabe-Ferret, Middlesex University

Co-authors: Birgitta Rabe and Emilia del Bono

We investigate how social norms affect the impact of public health recommendations. To do so, we estimate the impact of the Baby-Friendly Initiative, a breastfeeding promotion programme in hospitals, on the behaviour of first- and second-generation migrants in the UK who vary in their cultural predisposition to breastfeed. We find that the policy increases breastfeeding initiation, but only among mothers coming from low breastfeeding prevalence countries, while it raises exclusive breastfeeding, but only among those coming from high breastfeeding prevalence countries. Mothers seem to respond to public health recommendations along the least costly margin to them, suggesting that tailored messages may have a larger impact.

Parental care during the first year of life: gender and social variations in practices and tastes (ELFE)
Study: ELFE

Olivia Samuel, Université Paris Nanterre / Cresppa and Alex Sheridan, INED

Co-authors: Carole Brugeilles, Yoann Demoli, Christine Hamelin and Alex Sheridan

Do parents enjoy caring for their infants in line with a norm of “good” parenting, do they feel obligated to do it, or do they avoid some tasks altogether? Based on two waves of the French Longitudinal Survey on Childhood (ELFE), we analyze parental attitudes towards caring for infants, including changing diapers, feeding, bathing, clipping nails, blowing the nose, and treating irritations. We consider evolutions with respect to child’s age and we aim to determine whether there is a gendered logic or a social gradient in parental attitudes towards caregiving and whether there is complementarity, accumulation, or substitutability between parents.

Paternal psychological distress and adolescent health risk behaviours
Study: Millennium Cohort Study

Maria Sifaki, University College London

Co-authors: Eirini Flouri and Emily Midouhas

The impact of paternal psychological distress on adolescent health risk behaviours is not well-understood. Analyzing data from 11,128 families of the Millennium Cohort Study, we examined paths from paternal distress, measured at child ages 3, 7, and 11, to adolescent health risk behaviours, measured at 14. Adolescent health risk behaviours included engagement in smoking, alcohol drinking, binge drinking, and sexual activity. Paternal distress at 11 predicted higher risk for smoking. Maternal distress was modelled in the same way as paternal and had several effects. Future research could attempt to explore the causal mechanisms behind those pathways.

Track 2 - Early life influences

Medically Assisted Reproduction and Mental Health in adolescence: evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study.
Study: Millennium Cohort Study

Maria Palma, UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies

Co-authors: Alice Goisis, Praveetha Patalay and Emla Fitzimons

The number and proportion of children conceived through Medically Assisted Reproduction (MAR) is steadily increasing yet the evidence on their mental health in adolescence is inconclusive. We investigate whether MAR adolescents are more likely than naturally conceived (NC) children to experience mental health problems, and whether this association is confounded and/or mediated by family characteristics. Results reveal zero or small mental health differences between MAR and NC adolescents. Whilst parental reports results could suggest MAR adolescents are at higher risk of mental health problems, differences are small and not supported by the adolescents’ own reports. The difference between MAR and NC adolescent’s parental report might reflect differences in parental concern and can help to reconcile previous studies’ mixed findings.

Inequalities in early developmental skills according to gender and social class: results from a French cohort study
Study: ELFE

Inès Malroux, Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale

Using data from the French ELFE cohort study, this research explores the scores obtained by 3-year-old-children at the Child Development Inventory.  The decomposition of the CDI sub-scales permits to describe the differences between girls and boys, and between children of different social classes, in multiple developmental areas. The results show that girls have higher developmental skills than boys, particularly in the fields of fine motor skills, writing, language and autonomy. However, differences between girls and boys are nuanced by the socioeconomic position. Economically advantaged children obtain higher scores than disadvantaged ones in every field, except for the autonomy subscale.

What early childhood experiences are important for children’s learning and how do they differ amongst children in Scotland? Evidence from the Growing Up in Scotland study
Study: Growing Up in Scotland

Paul Bradshaw, Scottish Centre for Social Research


The Growing Up in Scotland study has followed a representative cohort of Scottish children since 2005 when they were aged 10 months old. Data was collected annually from birth to age 6 and then at ages 8, 10, 12, 14 and 17/18. These data have been used to identify how children’s early experiences are associated with their development throughout childhood and into adolescence and how experiences and outcomes vary for children from different backgrounds. This paper will summarise the key evidence generated by the study, reflecting on the implications for policy and the benefits of investing in children’s early years.

Track 3 - Maternal mental health and child development

Maternal Socio-Emotional Skills and Child Development
Study: Millennium Cohort Study

Greta Morando, University College London

Co-authors: Sonkurt Sen and Almudena Sevilla

Identifying the determinants of human capital development is crucial for individuating which factors contribute to the socio-economic disparities in skills development and to tackle social inequality. In this paper, using rich longitudinal data, we implement a valueadded model to establish the causal effect of maternal socio-emotional skills, particularly internal locus of control (LoC) on parental investment and child development. We find that maternal LoC positively affects child socio-emotional skills across three dimensions, internalizing, externalizing and pro-sociality. Further analysis shows that while there is no effect of maternal LoC on cognitive outcomes, it positively affects educational and recreational parental investments in children. By implementing composition analysis, we find that maternal LoC partly explains the socio-economic differences in child development.

Theory of mind, social-motivational flexibility, and mental health trajectories in children and adolescents.
Study: Millennium Cohort Study

DI Tsomokos, University of Glasgow

Co-authors: Eirini Flouri

Social cognitive abilities, including theory of mind, emerge in childhood and continue to develop across childhood and adolescence. They are crucially important to children’s adjustment and self-regulation, and they are related to decision-making and mental health outcomes across childhood and adolescence. In this project, we uncover new associations between these areas of research.

Maternal psychological distress and harsh parenting: The role of maternal mental health treatment
Study: Millennium Cohort Study

Emily Midouhas, University College London

Co-authors: Bonamy R. Oliver

We examined the moderating role of mothers receiving treatment for depression or anxiety on the relationship between maternal psychological distress and the development of harsh parenting across early childhood (ages 3 to 7). Using data from 16,131 families participating in the MCS, we found that maternal psychological distress was associated with increased use of harsh parenting and, importantly, receiving treatment buffered the negative effect of psychological distress. In early-to-middle childhood, mental health treatment may help mothers with depression or anxiety to be less harsh toward their children, thereby benefiting their child’s psychological adjustment.

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