Merill-Palmer Quarterly

Merrill-Palmer Quarterly
Volume 52, Number 2, April 2006
Special Issue: Promoting the Well-Being of Children and Youth in Urban America
Guest Editors: Hilary Horn Ratner and Gail Brumitt

CONTENTS

Consulting Editors

Foreword

    Reid, Irvin D.
  • In Service to Children and Youth: Foreword to the Special Issue
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    Subject Headings:
    • Community and college -- United States.
    • City children -- United States -- Social conditions.

Introduction

    Ratner, Hilary H.
    Brumitt, Gail.
  • Bridging Campus to Community in the Lives of Urban Children and Youth: Introduction to the Special Issue
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    Subject Headings:
    • Community and college -- United States.
    • City children -- United States -- Social conditions.
    • City children -- Health and hygiene -- United States.
    • City children -- Education -- United States.
    Abstract:
      This special issue brings together papers presented at a conference, "Promoting the Well-Being of Children and Youth in Urban America," held on the campus of Wayne State University in April 2004. These articles highlight multidisciplinary, multi-method research and research-in-context directed toward identifying protective and risky settings for children and youth in urban communities to suggest evidence-based solutions for intervention. Present in the themes of the papers is an acknowledgment of a larger social and political context connecting higher education, research, outreach, and policy.

      These issues will be explored further in the second biennial national children's conference held at Wayne State University, "Promoting the Well-Being of Children and Youth in Urban America: Best Practices to Next Practices," on September 28 and 29, 2006. This event will bring together researchers, clinicians, educators, students, policy makers, and community representatives to focus on best practices for promoting the health, education, and development of urban children and on disseminating program models for next practices.

Articles

    Heymann, Jody, 1959-
    Penrose, Kate.
    Earle, Alison.
  • Meeting Children's Needs: How Does the United States Measure Up?
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    Subject Headings:
    • Family policy -- United States.
    • Children of working parents -- United States -- Social conditions.
    • Children of working parents -- Health and hygiene -- United States.
    Abstract:
      The majority of parents in the United States today must balance work and caregiving responsibilities. Workplace policies and community supports markedly influence the ability of parents to care for their children's health and education while obtaining, retaining, and advancing in their jobs. The goal of this article is to analyze the dilemmas faced by working parents in general and by low-income families in particular, to present new data on how public policies in the United States compare to policies in over 150 other countries in addressing these dilemmas, and to suggest what more can be done to meet the needs of all working parents and their children across social class and residence.
    Bowman, Margo.
    Barnett, Douglas, 1963-
    Johnson, Alex F.
    Reeve, Kirsti.
  • Language, School Functioning, and Behavior Among African American Urban Kindergartners
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    Subject Headings:
    • African American children -- Education (Early childhood)
    • City children -- Education (Early childhood) -- United States.
    • Language disorders in children -- United States.
    • Behavior disorders in children -- United States.
    Abstract:
      Significant relations among language impairments, academic difficulties, and behavioral problems have been well established in previous research, primarily with impaired children or non-minority samples. However, how and why these three developmental domains tend to co-vary has received only limited attention. Preliminary research suggests that academic deficiencies mediate the relation between language impairments and problem behavior. This study assessed 97 urban African American kindergarten children (mean age = 5.98, SD = .33) on measures of language impairment, school functioning, and behavior problems to examine potential processes linking these areas of functioning. Similar to previous research, all three factors correlated significantly with one another. Children with language problems were more likely to have problems with school functioning, and school functioning mediated the relation between language and behavior problems. Additionally, poor frustration tolerance moderated the relation between language impairment and behavior problems. Implications and limitations are discussed.
    Li, Xiaoming.
    Atkins, Melissa S.
    Stanton, Bonita.
  • Effects of Home and School Computer Use on School Readiness and Cognitive Development Among Head Start Children: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial
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    Subject Headings:
    • Computers and children.
    • Readiness for school -- United States.
    • Head Start programs.
    Abstract:
      Data from 122 Head Start children were analyzed to examine the impact of computer use on school readiness and psychomotor skills. Children in the experimental group were given the opportunity to work on a computer for 15–20 minutes per day with their choice of developmentally appropriate educational software, while the control group received a standard Head Start curriculum. Four standardized tests were administered at baseline and 6 months later to assess their school readiness, visual motor skills, gross motor skills, and cognitive development. The experimental group performed significantly better than the control group on the school readiness test. The effect of computer use at school was strongly enhanced by the children's home computer experience. The data were inconclusive regarding the potential effect of computer use on motor skills. These findings underscore the importance of early childhood computer use in the development of minds and bodies of children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families.
    Ratner, Hilary H.
    Chiodo, Lisa.
    Covington, Chandice.
    Sokol, Robert J.
    Ager, Joel.
    Delaney-Black, Virginia.
  • Violence Exposure, IQ, Academic Performance, and Children's Perception of Safety: Evidence of Protective Effects
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    Subject Headings:
    • Children and violence -- United States.
    • Academic achievement -- Social aspects -- United States.
    • Academic achievement -- United States -- Psychological aspects.
    • City children -- Education (Early childhood) -- United States.
    • City children -- United States -- Psychology.
    Abstract:
      Community violence exposure (CVE), a critical urban problem, is associated with negative academic outcomes. Children who report feeling safe, however, may perform better than those who do not. The purpose of this study was to examine the relations among CVE, feelings of safety, and cognitive outcomes among 6- and 7-year-olds born to women receiving prenatal care at an inner-city maternity hospital who participated in a prospective pregnancy study. In addition to obtaining measures of child CVE, IQ, reading, standardized school achievement, and grades, we also evaluated the primary caregiver in order to assess the home and family environment. Greater violence exposure and victimization were related to poorer child outcomes; however, feelings of safety were positively related to most of the cognitive measures, and positive caregiving was related to more optimal cognitive functioning. Increased feelings of safety may allow children to focus on critical school tasks to which they may otherwise be unable to attend.
    Reid, Pamela Trotman.
    Roberts, Sally K.
  • Gaining Options: A Mathematics Program for Potentially Talented At-risk Adolescent Girls
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    Subject Headings:
    • Mathematics -- Study and teaching (Middle school) -- United States.
    • Teenage girls -- Education (Middle school) -- United States.
    • Children with social disabilities -- Education (Middle school) -- United States.
    • Women in mathematics -- United States.
    Abstract:
      In response to indicators that a decline in interest in mathematics occurs among girls—particularly those from low-income and minority groups—during middle school, the GO-GIRL (Gaining Options: Girls Investigate Real Life) program was designed to help potentially talented at-risk girls. The program aimed to build mathematical confidence, skills, and conceptual understanding by integrating mathematics and social science research in a single-sex, technology-rich environment supported by university student mentors. The program targeted seventh-grade urban girls from public and private schools. Participants met over the course of ten Saturdays to learn research methods, computer skills, mathematics, and descriptive statistics. Quantitative data from the girls indicate that participants demonstrated greater confidence in their mathematics ability and increased mathematics achievement after the program. Qualitative data confirmed these findings and supported the contention that multiple factors play a role in fostering girls' interest in studying mathematics and science.
    Abbey, Antonia.
    Jacques, Angela J.
    Hayman, Lenwood W.
    Sobeck, Joanne.
  • Predictors of Early Substance Use Among African American and Caucasian Youth From Urban and Suburban Communities
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    Subject Headings:
    • Youth -- Substance use -- United States.
    • Substance abuse -- Social aspects -- United States.
    • Substance abuse -- United States -- Prevention.
    Abstract:
      The deleterious effects of early substance use have been well documented. Past research has produced mixed results regarding the extent to which the profile of risk differs for urban African American and suburban Caucasian youth. Sixth graders from urban (n = 420; 92% African American) and suburban (n = 391; 89% Caucasian) schools in metropolitan Detroit completed surveys at the beginning and end of the school year. More similarities than differences were found in hierarchical multiple regression analyses predicting substance use among these two groups of students. For both groups, peer pressure susceptibility and school commitment were significantly related to substance use. For girls only, participation in after-school activities was negatively associated with substance use. The importance of prevention programs in the transition to middle school is discussed.
    Rice, Virginia Hill.
    Weglicki, Linda S.
    Templin, Thomas.
    Hammad, Adnan.
    Jamil, Hikmet.
    Kulwicki, Anahid, 1953-
  • Predictors of Arab American Adolescent Tobacco Use
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    Subject Headings:
    • Arab American youth -- Tobacco use.
    • Tobacco use -- Social aspects -- United States.
    • Tobacco use -- United States -- Prevention.
    Abstract:
      This study examined personal, psychosocial, sociocultural, and environmental predictors in tobacco use for 1,671 Arab American adolescents. Cigarette smoking in the past 30 days was 6.9%. This increased from 1% at age 14 to 14% at age 18. Twenty-nine percent of the youths reported having ever smoked cigarettes. Experimentation with narghile was 27%; it increased from 23% at 14 years to 40% at 18 years. All trends were significant (p < .001). Logistic regression analyses found 11 predictors for having smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days and 9 and 7 predictors, respectively, for having ever smoked a cigarette or the narghile. Tobacco use by friends and family members was the strongest predictor of cigarette and narghile smoking. Narghile use supported cigarette smoking.
    Toro, Paul A., 1955-
  • Trials, Tribulations, and Occasional Jubilations While Conducting Research with Homeless Children, Youth, and Families
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    Subject Headings:
    • Homeless persons -- Research -- United States.
    • Homelessness -- Public opinion -- Research.
    • Public opinion -- Research -- United States.
    Abstract:
      A personal account of a program of research on homelessness and poverty spanning the past 20 years is provided, with a focus on the many methodological, practical, and ethical difficulties encountered. Interesting discoveries and enjoyable aspects of the research process are also presented. Several role conflicts that arose for the researcher in this community-based work are also described, and the importance of nurturing long-term personal relationships with various community leaders is emphasized. The evolution of research ideas is documented by highlighting how the findings and problems encountered in earlier studies led to improved methods and new research questions.
    Moore, Kristin A.
  • How Can Basic Research on Children and Families Be Useful for the Policy Process?
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    Subject Headings:
    • Children -- Research -- United States.
    • Family -- Research -- United States.
    • Family policy -- United States.
    Abstract:
      Basic research can inform social policy in a number of ways. First, it can draw the attention of policy makers to problems. Second, it can deflect policy makers away from focusing on issues that are not really problems. Third, it can help policy makers understand whether or not factors are causally related to problems and the processes underlying development. And fourth, it can contribute to the evaluation of programs and policies by helping policy analysts develop models of behavior and by providing the measures and methods needed to conduct rigorous evaluation studies. To communicate information to policy makers, researchers need to be very brief; write in clear, accurate, and nontechnical language; and make information easily accessible. Researchers should recognize that policy makers have diverse goals and that only rarely is research the primary factor in policy making.



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