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Disabled children's cognitive development in the early years


  • Samantha Parsons

    () (Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education)

  • Lucinda Platt

    () (Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science)


Disabled children are known to fare worse in terms of educational attainment during their school years, with subsequent consequences for their later transitions and adult outcomes. But despite the acknowledged importance of the early years in children's later outcomes, we know relatively little about when disabled children's educational problems emerge or how they develop in young childhood. In this paper, we use a nationally representative longitudinal survey of UK children to address the following questions: do disabled children in England have lower cognitive skills prior to school entry? How do educational attainment and cognitive skills develop over the early school years relative to their non-disabled peer group? What role do background and environmental factors play in accounting for patterns of disabled children's progress? Using multiple measures of educational and cognitive attainment, and controlling for a number of key child, family and environmental factors, we investigate educational progress across two measures of disability. We find that disabled children have poorer cognitive skills at age 3, and that this is not accounted for by differences in home context. We also find that they make less progress over the early years than their non-disabled peers with similar levels of cognitive skills. Our findings are robust to a series of alternative specifications. Implications are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Samantha Parsons & Lucinda Platt, 2014. "Disabled children's cognitive development in the early years," DoQSS Working Papers 14-15, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
  • Handle: RePEc:qss:dqsswp:1415

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. anonymous, 2001. "New economic education Web site," Financial Update, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Oct, pages 1-3.
    2. Kiernan, Kathleen E. & Huerta, Maria Carmen, 2008. "Economic deprivation, maternal depression, parenting and children's cognitive and emotional development in early childhood," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 43720, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Melanie Jones, 2010. "Disability, education and training," Economic & Labour Market Review, Palgrave Macmillan;Office for National Statistics, vol. 4(4), pages 32-37, April.
    4. John Jerrim & Anna Vignoles, 2013. "Social mobility, regression to the mean and the cognitive development of high ability children from disadvantaged homes," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 176(4), pages 887-906, October.
    5. George Leckie & Harvey Goldstein, 2009. "The limitations of using school league tables to inform school choice," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 172(4), pages 835-851.
    6. Lorraine Dearden & Luke Sibieta & Kathy Sylva, 2011. "The socio-economic gradient in early child outcomes: evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study," IFS Working Papers W11/03, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    7. Claire Crawford & Anna Vignoles, 2010. "An analysis of the educational progress of children with special educational needs," DoQSS Working Papers 10-19, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
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    More about this item


    Disability; children; educational progress; Millennium Cohort Study; Special Educational Needs; Longstanding Limiting Illness; school; Key Stage 1; England;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination

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