Income Effects on the Intellectual Development of Children from Low-Income Families in Hong Kong: The Mediating Role of Parental Investment and Parental Stress

Abstract

This study examineed how parental investment and parental psychological well-being mediate the effects of family income on the intellectual development of children from low-income families in Hong Kong. The study followed a sample of 139 children from their final year of kindergarten (K3) through to their second year of primary education (P2) between 2015 and 2017. Path analysis was conducted to examine how family income was associated with children’s cognitive and English language ability (Raven’s Standard Progressive Matrices and Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-IV) through the parental investment and parental stress pathways. The results supported the hypothesis that parental investment and parental stress mediate the income effects on children’s learning outcome in the Asian context. The negative effects of low family income on children’s cognitive and English language abilities were mediated by the level of parental stress and the extent to which parents were authoritative in their parenting. Parental stress was also found to increase the likelihood of their children having behavioral problems, and that in turn undermined the cognitive development of the children. The level of money that parents invest in their children also mediated the negative effects of low family income on the children’s English language ability. The results suggested that interventions that target the variables that mediate the effects of income on child development are an effective alternative to a direct cash transfer for children in low-income families in Hong Kong.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the Research Grant Council, Early Career Scheme (Grant No. 28400614). The authors confirm that there are no conflicts of interest associated with this publication and there has been no financial support for this work that could have influenced its outcome. All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Human Research Ethics Committee of the Education University of Hong Kong. Informed consent was obtained from all participants for being included in the study.

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Correspondence to Kelvin Chi-Kin Cheung.

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Cheung, K.C., Wong, R.K. Income Effects on the Intellectual Development of Children from Low-Income Families in Hong Kong: The Mediating Role of Parental Investment and Parental Stress. Child Adolesc Soc Work J (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10560-020-00681-5

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Keywords

  • Poverty
  • Family investment
  • Parental stress
  • Parenting style
  • Cognitive ability
  • Child development