Infancy and Early Childhood

The CRCDE studies on early childhood span infants’ birth through age 6 years, with a focus on children’s developments in language, cognition, social competence, and emotional understanding and expression, and self regulation. Focus is on individual trajectories of skills in children, the dynamic associations among developing skills, and the roles of context and culture in children’s development. The investigation of cultural similarities and differences is a cross-cutting theme in all our studies, which are based on observations and assessments of children and families from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds within the U.S. as well as internationally. For example, in one ongoing longitudinal investigation, we are closely following over 200 children and families from African American, Chinese, Dominican, and Mexican backgrounds. All families reside in New York City, and are predominantly low income. Each year (starting at infant birth), we assess children across various developmental domains, and videotape children and mothers in a variety of semi-structured interactions (including play, booksharing, teaching, break time). These videotapes are coded for the content and quality of parent-child interactions, which are then related to developmental changes in children. Mothers are also interviewed in depth about various contexts and areas of child development, including childcare and schooling, economic resources of families, gender socialization, family relationships, and cultural beliefs and practices around raising children. Many of our studies also focus on fathers’ role in families and child development. The focus on children’s first years of life enables us to better understand pathways to school readiness and academic achievement in children with different social experiences. Findings from this work are of theoretical, social, and policy significance.