Associations among family socioeconomic status, parenting and sustained attention for socioeconomically disadvantaged children at age 5 years

Publication Year



Children whose families experience socioeconomic disadvantage are at risk for poor sustained attention, a foundational skill related to goal-oriented behaviour, self-regulation and kindergarten readiness. Maternal parenting behaviours and parenting stress are theorised developmental pathways linking socioeconomic status (SES) to children's sustained attention. However, research has yet to empirically test for these indirect pathways, thus limiting the relevance of extant findings to inform targets of parent-mediated programmes addressing attentional disparities at school entry for low-income children. Using a sample of mostly low-income children from the Future of Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 2214) and the process of parenting model, this study tested whether maternal parenting stress, harsh parenting and cognitive stimulation uniquely explained associations between SES and child sustained attention at age 5 years. Results from structural equation modelling revealed that SES was positively and directly associated with child sustained attention. Some of these effects were indirectly transmitted through the pathway of maternal cognitive stimulation; however, neither harsh parenting nor parenting stress helped to explain the relationship between SES and child sustained attention. Implications of the findings are explored in the context of early childhood prevention and promotion programmes serving low-income families.

Publication Status
In Press
Infant and Child Development