Background and aim Early intervention programs are critical to optimize development for children in low-income families. Principles of social justice and inclusion increase the tendency to employ similar early intervention approaches for all program children. This approach fails to maximize intervention outcomes, and may benefit certain sub-groups of children more than others. The purpose of this study was to explore differences in receptive language scores in children who participated in a two-generation preschool program while controlling for child characteristics.
Method The program included centre-based care, parenting education, and family support. We assessed 62 children using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test III (PPVT-III) at program entry and exit, and age 7 years.
Results Repeated measures ANOVA’s using child characteristics as covariates, revealed gender differences in receptive language scores at age 7 years favoring males, F(1, 61) = 3.71, p=0.06. Children with an older sibling exhibited significantly better receptive language scores, F(1.61) = 4.38, p=0.04. Ethnicity, English as a first language, time in program, and family income were unrelated to receptive language scores, p’s > 0.10.
Conclusions The finding that males outperformed females is surprising because females tend to have stronger language skills than age-matched males. Younger siblings may have benefited from increased exposure to older siblings who had participated previously in the program. Results suggest that early intervention programs for children living in low-income families may benefit from alterations to program curricula that promote sex-differentiated learning strategies and focus on family dynamics.