Sensitive Parenting Helps Pre-Term Children Overcome Education Deficit

Certain parenting techniques can aid children who had been born before their due date to overcome many complications that come with premature birth. According to Rich Nauert, a senior news writer for Psych Central, that includes overcoming difficulties in school.

A study from the University of Warwick found that families of preterm and low birth weight babies can use sensitive and “cognitively stimulating” parenting approaches to put children almost on par with their full-term peers. Researchers looked at parents who tried this approach when their children were 6 years of age and then tracked its impact 7 years later. Similar achievement gains were not recorded in full-term children whose parents applied similar techniques.

However, researchers concluded that providing an environment that encourages mental stimulation could improve academic achievement in all children, pre-term and full-term alike.

Dieter Wolke, Ph.D., of the University of Warwick said: “By sensitive parenting, we mean adapting one’s parenting to the individual child’s behavior and responses, while clearly remaining the more competent partner and setting age-appropriate limits.

“So for example providing gentle feedback and suggesting potential solutions rather than taking over and solving the tasks for the child.”

Wolke suggests cognitively stimulating parenting, in which parents include activities designed to get children thinking, such as reading to them or doing puzzles together.

Wolke’s research shows that sensitive and cognitively challenging parenting can help erase academic gaps for pre-term children, something that could prove to be a boon for the education system which is always on a lookout for a way to improve special education outcomes. The sensitivity approach proved particularly effective, although both provided certain benefits.

Dieter Wolke, Ph.D., of the University of Warwick said: “By sensitive parenting, we mean adapting one’s parenting to the individual child’s behavior and responses, while clearly remaining the more competent partner and setting age-appropriate limits.

“So for example providing gentle feedback and suggesting potential solutions rather than taking over and solving the tasks for the child.”

Wolke suggests cognitively stimulating parenting, in which parents include activities designed to get children thinking, such as reading to them or doing puzzles together.

Researchers didn’t just look at parenting methods. They also took account of socioeconomic status of the parents as well as any impairments – physical or otherwise – children were suffering at 20 months of age. Nauert explains that for the purposes of the study, pre-term babies were defined as those born before 32 weeks and weighing less than 3 pounds, 5 ounces.