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JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Jan 4;2(1):e186963. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.6963.

Association of Maternal Social Relationships With Cognitive Development in Early Childhood.

Author information

1
University of Tennessee Health Science Center-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Center for Biomedical Informatics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis.
2
Child and Adolescent Division, Department of Psychiatry, Weill Institute for Neurosciences, University of California, San Francisco.
3
Division of Developmental Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco.
4
Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis.

Abstract

Importance:

This study examines how different types of social network structures are associated with early cognitive development in children.

Objectives:

To assess how social relationships and structures are associated with early cognitive development and to elucidate whether variations in the mother's social networks alter a child's early cognitive development patterns.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

This cohort study used data from 1082 mother-child pairs in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center-Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning and Early Childhood project to examine the association between networks of different levels of complexity (triad, family, and neighborhood) and child cognitive performance after adjustment for the mother's IQ, birth weight, and age, and the father's educational level. The final model was adjusted for the household poverty level. Data were collected from December 2006 through January 2014 and analyzed from October through November 2018.

Exposures:

The child-mother relationship, child-mother-father triad, family setting, child's dwelling network, mother's social support network, and neighborhood networks.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

Measure of cognitive development of the child using Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID) at 2 years of age.

Results:

Of 1082 participants, 544 (50.3%) were males and 703 (65.1%) were African American; the mean (SD) age was 2.08 (0.12) years. Large family size had a negative association with early cognitive development, with a mean 2.21-point decrease in BSID coefficient score (95% CI, 0.40 to 4.02; P = .01). Mother's social support network size was positively associated early cognitive development, with a mean 0.40-point increase in BSID coefficient score (95% CI, 0.001 to 0.80; P = .05). Knowing many neighbors was not statistically significantly associated with early cognitive development, with a mean 1.39-point increase in BSID coefficient score (95% CI, -0.04 to 2.83; P = .06).

Conclusions and Relevance:

The findings suggest that maternal social relationships are associated with cognitive development in children and that social relationships beyond the mother-child-father triad are significantly associated with children's cognitive development. This study investigates the environmental influences on child health outcomes and, specifically, how early cognitive development is associated with social networks for the primary caregiver.

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