Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Michael Lewis

Committee Members

Diane DePanfilis

Marina Lalayants

Eri Noguchi

Subject Categories

Social Work


child poverty, child neglect, child development, cognitive and social -emotional development, effective mediating mechanisms, neighborhood factors, parenting, systematic review


A growing body of evidence indicates that children who are exposed to early childhood adversities such as poverty and maltreatment are at particular risk of delayed cognitive and social-emotional development. Studies have also shown that protective factors including warm, supportive parenting, cognitively stimulating home environments, and participation in early childhood education programs have the potential to mediate the harmful effects of poverty and benefit children from disadvantaged circumstances. Despite the growing literature on the effects of early adversities and the benefits of protective factors for children’s development and well-being, evidence related to young children involved in the child welfare system (CWS) is still limited.

To fill the gap and expand on the existing literature, this dissertation used structural equation modeling to analyze secondary data from the National Child and Adolescent Well -Being Study II (NSCAW II) and examined the various direct and indirect pathways (home environment, parenting, maternal mental health and discipline, and ECE attendance) through which poverty exerts its influence on the developmental outcomes of children in the child welfare system. The major findings of the dissertation indicate that poverty exerts its influence on children’s early cognitive development through the quality of the home environment. Cognitive development of children is also linked to maternal education, which has a significant direct effect on the quality of the home environment, thus indirectly affecting the cognitive development of children in the CWS. Moreover, the findings suggest that neighborhood-level factors such as perceived neighborhood danger have a direct negative effect on maternal mental health; this, in turn, increases the likelihood of mothers using negative and harsh disciplinary practices and expressing a lower level of emotional support toward their children, which directly impacts the social-emotional development of young children involved in the CWS.

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