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Family Impacts on Cognitive Development of Young Children: Evidence from Australia



This paper investigates the manner and extent to which family structure impacts upon the cognitive development of young Australian children. Our methodology draws on the standard household production model of Becker but also includes control variables emphasised by parental investment and good-parent theories of child development. We use data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) and from the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) in cross sectional, panel, instrumental variables and fixed-effects analyses. Our results suggest that the large negative effects initially associated with single parent families disappear when child characteristics and parental preferences for education are controlled for. On the other hand parental completion of Year 12 education, ‘warm’ parent-child interactions, a stress-free home environment and positive parental aspirations for their children are persistently strong determinants of the educational success of young children.

Suggested Citation

  • Jessica Meredith & Frank Neri & Joan Rodgers, 2013. "Family Impacts on Cognitive Development of Young Children: Evidence from Australia," Economics Working Papers wp13-05, School of Economics, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia.
  • Handle: RePEc:uow:depec1:wp13-05

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, January.
    2. Gary S. Becker & Nigel Tomes, 1994. "Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families," NBER Chapters,in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 257-298 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Katrine V. Løken & Magne Mogstad & Matthew Wiswall, 2012. "What Linear Estimators Miss: The Effects of Family Income on Child Outcomes," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 1-35, April.
    4. Beck A. Taylor & Eric Dearing & Kathleen McCartney, 2004. "Incomes and Outcomes in Early Childhood," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(4).
    5. Donna Ginther & Robert Pollak, 2004. "Family structure and children’s educational outcomes: Blended families, stylized facts, and descriptive regressions," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 41(4), pages 671-696, November.
    6. Shea, John, 2000. "Does parents' money matter?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 155-184, August.
    7. Mara Violato & Stavros Petrou & Ron Gray & Maggie Redshaw, 2011. "Family income and child cognitive and behavioural development in the United Kingdom: does money matter?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(10), pages 1201-1225, October.
    8. Alison Aughinbaugh & Maury Gittleman, 2003. "Does Money Matter?: A Comparison of the Effect of Income on Child Development in the United States and Great Britain," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(2).
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    More about this item


    Family structure; child cognitive development; parental investment; good parenting practices;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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