A Critique of "Home Background and Young Children"
Within the context of supportive relationships with adults who act as a buffer against any negative effects of instability, children learn how to cope with adversity, adapt to their surroundings, and regulate their emotions. Welldesigned, two-generational intervention programs aimed at supporting positive parenting, reducing parental and childhood stress, and strengthening family coping strategies can ease the impact of instability on children. Although parents are primary in assuring their children’s well-being and healthy development, a broad range of government programs also play an important role, especially for children in low-income families. Safety net programs provide financial assistance to families in the form of cash payments or subsidized housing, child care, or food, all of which help to alleviate the immediate effects of instability. But the programs might be able to do more to stabilize the situation for children, by considering whether any administrative practices inadvertently increase instability. Simplified reporting procedures, longer eligibility periods, and a single, centralized eligibility process for multiple programs are some potential strategies.
These transitions can also result in residential moves and disrupt the degree to which children are able to draw support from others and engage with their environments (Amato 2000; Crosnoe and Cavanagh 2010; Wu and Martinson 1993). Although many children never experience a family structure change, those who experience one family transition are at greater risk for subsequent transitions and their concomitant stresses. Regardless of whether the significance of family structure change for early childhood development reflects selection into and through various family structures, the actual experience of living in and changing between such family structures, or both processes at once, illuminates how even one family structure transition plays out in a child’s life is an important task. This task is especially important to consider for the crisis periods of household routine disruption that can follow the end or start of parents’ coresidential relationships. Turning attention to child care, another major setting of early childhood, can be a valuable part of this task.
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