A new study out of the University of Warwick has demonstrated that the academic performance of preterm infants can be improved with certain parenting styles. The study found that cognitively stimulating and sensitive parenting was shown to increase the child’s level of academic achievement. Previous studies found that preterm infants are at a much higher risk of developing special educational needs than their peers who delivered at full term. This makes any technique that improves their academic performance is significant.
The study examined the effects of parenting styles on 314 very preterm/low birth weight babies. The study included 338 control subjects. The children were followed from birth until age thirteen. Cognitively stimulating parenting was found to benefit all children regardless of birth weight. Sensitive parenting was found to be only partly effective in preventing the adverse effects of preterm birth on academic outcomes.
Sensitive parenting is the technique where the parents adapt their parenting to the individual child’s behavior and responses. The parent remains the more competent of the parent-child relationship. The parent sets limits based on age appropriateness. The parent provides gentle feedback. The child receives potential solutions and the parent does not take over the situation and solve the problems for the child.
Cognitively stimulating parenting is defined as when a parent includes activities which are designed to get the child to think independently. This involves reading to the child and working on puzzles with them.
The study aimed to determine if academic performance of preterm infants could be influenced by parenting styles. The study concluded that both of the two parenting styles can have positive effects on increased school performance. Sensitive parenting was found to be especially effective at closing the performance gap between full-term children and preterm children.
Medical advances have increased the survivability of premature babies. But many of these children, when they reach school age, will have special educational needs. Educators are challenged when they have classes filled with children with differing needs. Teachers have to do things differently when they work with children with learning difficulties. With the increased number of preterm babies growing up and entering school, the educational system, which is already overburdened, with needing to develop more special needs educational opportunities.
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