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School & District Management

Healthy Latino Babies’ Cognitive Abilities Lag as They Become Toddlers

By Mary Ann Zehr — October 21, 2009 1 min read

Latina mothers from low-income households have healthy babies compared with women from other ethnic groups, but their children don’t make as much progress in developing cognitive skills from the ages of 9 months to 2 years as do their white middle-class counterparts, according to a study released by the University of California, Berkeley.

The study is scheduled to appear this week in the Maternal and Child Health Journal. The New York Times published an article today on the study. (Update: The Los Angeles Times also covered the study.) A companion study about Latinos’ early development will also be published this fall in the medical journal Pediatrics.

The researchers, led by Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at UC-Berkeley, looked at two subgroups of Latina mothers: women with Mexican heritage and women who primarily speak Spanish and tend to be less acculturated than other Latinas. Both groups of women had strong prenatal practices. They tended not, for example, to smoke or drink while pregnant.

But the Mexican-American mothers also are not likely to have received much education, and that may be one reason why their children soon fall behind middle-class children in language and cognitive development, the study says.

“What’s not understood,” write the researchers, “is how Latina mothers might preserve beneficial protective factors while acquiring more focused learning activities for their toddlers.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.