Poverty affects millions of people on a global basis each day, even those who are in the most susceptible position: children. In 2010, 21.6% of children, more than 16 million, were living at or below the poverty level in the US (Cooper, 2014). Understandably, this does not only have immediate, or solely economic, effects. Damaging results include an increased risk for lacking social and academic skill development. These discrepancies are apparent as young as the age of 2 when provided with cognitive tasks. Further, if this poverty and lack of resources is apparent prior to the age of 5, this leaks into the transition period into formal schooling, and since this discrepancy starts to early, the lag of socioeconomically (SES) disadvantaged children only grows from there. Many realms of study in childhood development provide evidence as to the role environment plays in growing the child’s knowledge base. Most applicably, the ecological systems theory supported by Brofenbrenner notes the many interactions and contexts that through interplay influence development—from primary caregivers to neighbors, and further, educational settings.
Thus, there has been a crucial need for early intervention to allow youth to get involved in a classroom setting to gain exposure to peers and early academic environments. Quality education is vital for children to be exposed to this and the various facets that are involved in this categorization of “quality” include that of the physical aspects of the classroom, number and frequency of instructional activities, and nature of interactions with teachers and fellow peers. Head Start (HS) was launched in 1964 as an antipoverty initiative. This aimed to aid social competence of families exhibiting low SES for children to be adequately prepared for elementary school. Children were treated holistically so this did not solely serve as an academic setting; rather, physical, nutritional, and mental health were involved, as well as, social services for both families and children aged 3 to 4 (Peck, 2014). Although initially developed as a summer school program, The Head Start Act of 1981 expanded this program nationwide. More children would be able to be exposed to a richer environment than that in which they would have been exposed to when lacking this program in communities lacking the supplies and the income to foster young children. Implications in familial relationships, emotional well-being, and cognitive skills have been researched, though there are still many contradictory studies over the actual efficacy of the program and the issues that need to be evaluated to improve the effects this program has on the lasting development of the participants. Since children are individuals, this review aims to explore the growing field of evidence that explains the importance and relevance of utilizing current research, even though skeptical in nature, to promote focused plans of HS in differing regions depending on the type of children necessitating various resources and skills.
A Washington Post letter written by the director of the National Head Start Association in 2014 attempts to argue against the critics that examine uncertainty of the effects of HS. It notes that even the critics remark that HS positively prepares children for Kindergarten–a key purpose of this program during a long transition period. The director cites that children emerging from HS have higher high school graduation rates, less discipline issues, and attend college at higher percentages. These benefits extend from the classroom since the program is whole encompassing. So, parents who enroll children in HS have been shown to have long term employment to aid in economic mobility. However, this must be taken with a grain of salt seeing as the writer of this information has a pretty obvious bias as a leader in the field. Therefore, much more research needs to be conducted by outside parties to view if and how these benefits can be promoted in all children (Vinci, 2014).
An article from The New York Times Magazine provided some empirical evidence as to the long term benefits of early intervention programs. David Kirp, in 2004, albeit long ago, explored the results of the “High/Scope Perry Preschool Study” which was longitudinal over the course of nearly 40 years studying children enrolled in an innovative early education program, similar to HS. There were 123 participants and their results have reverberations in the current debates on HS. In 1962, 21 three and four year olds started preschools; 37 more enrolled over the next 3 years–all were black originating from low SES backgrounds in a poor environment with high crime rates. These children attended the Perry program for two years, three hours a day for five days a week. Rather than unstructured preschool environments, this curriculum focused on cognitive development and problem-solving interactions. Participants were active learners, rather than passive creatures. The teachers were trained, paid well, and were in charge of small cohorts of children. There were active interventions in the home to train parents as well. Those in the control group did not attend a preschool program (Kirp, 2004).
Of note, early on, there were not significantly higher literacy and mathematics scores in the experimental group compared to controls. Preschool IQs were high but those differences were soon alleviated as the control group caught up. This is consistent with much of the debate over HS. However, instead of giving up and calling the program a failure due to some early data, they continued assessing these children as they became adults (Kirp, 2004). 97% of the initial cohort remained with the study, which is an admirable retention rate. Life courses are key to understanding the benefits–not just studies one or two years after intervention. As the children developed, they were less likely to be placed in special education classes, they were more motivated and their grade point averages were higher. Further, their support systems were greater–parents were keener in regard to education. Two thirds of the experimental group had received a high school diploma, compared to only 45% of non-preschool attendees. At the age of 37, the experimental group scored higher on literacy assessments. Twice as many participants received college degrees and 76% have jobs currently compared to 62%. Their yearly earnings were also significantly higher–above the poverty line. Criminal activities were also found to be significantly lower; instead, 68% of the Perry group have gotten married and focused on a successful family life (Schweinhart, 2005).
Most markedly, while the costs of this program were calculated to be approximately $15,166, an estimation of public benefit was noted to be nearly $196,000 when considering educational, welfare, and criminal savings (Schweinhart, 2005). While this does not speak for every participant, these average features are striking. Although not successful at the start, the long-term effects are definitely noteworthy in maintaining a stable life, staying out of trouble, and giving back to the at-risk community. At a crucial time in a child\’s development, intervention can play a role in escaping a detrimental fate for at-risk youth (Kirp, 2004). Lessons from this study became widely utilized in school districts. While the effectiveness of HS is still in deliberation, this review aims to assess how to determine how HS can be altered to facilitate the most benefits for individuals before it is too late and how individualized care can be initiated.
The HS Impact study was the first of its kind to research HS on a national scale. Outcomes of nearly 5,000 3 and 4 year old children involved in HS were analyzed in 2010, and later in 2014 in a follow-up study, across 23 states in response to a Congress mandate of evaluation in 1998 as to the efficacy of this program. The younger cohort (aged 3) was able to have analysis of 2 years of HS benefits prior to entering kindergarten, while the older cohort had results for one year: they were interested in studying the receiving of this programming earlier in development. There was random sampling of those who could participate in the impact study. 2,644 were randomized to receive HS. The control group did not have access through the program but they could enroll in another program of their choice. Since it would be unethical to prevent them from doing so, this study was interested in the benefits of HS versus all other options, rather than no options at all. Data was collected in 2002 to 2006: from time of application to the 1st grade. Parents completed questionnaires and raters determined multiple aspects of classroom and teaching quality. Researchers were interested in the domains of cognitive and socio-emotional development, health services, and parenting capabilities (Peck, 2014).
Demographic characteristics of 3 vs 4 year olds were different so they needed to be separated into cohorts. 3 year olds were evenly distributed racially, but 51.6% of 4 year olds were Hispanic. There were small holistic effects of the development of reading skills across cohorts—both had improvements in language and preliteracy capabilities. Four year olds had benefits in spelling, color identification, and significantly higher access to dental care and health insurance coverage. 3 year olds also showed improvements in mathematics, phonological processing, motor skills, and behavior. However, these skills did not have longitudinal effects and by the end of 1st grade, the experimental group could only overtake the controls in oral comprehension and receptive vocabulary. There was some additional evidence that the 3 year olds had closer relationships with their parents (Peck, 2014).
The impact of HS was further moderated by parental depression; there appeared to be increased benefits of HS in those who had parents suffering from depressive symptomatology (appearing to suppress negative effects in the home). Effects of HS also seemed to be most significant in the 4 year old group in: children who were dual language learners and those who originated with mediocre cognitive skills. HS was most significant in the 3-year-old cohort in children with special needs and those from higher risk households (Peck, 2014).
There was contradictory evidence in regard to behavioral and social skills throughout the program, compared to children not in the experimental group. Further, many children in the control group did enroll in other childcare or pre-school programs (some even enrolled themselves in an alternate HS program). It would be unethical to prevent the participants for aiming for childcare, especially if primary caregivers need to work during the day; however, this did lead to some skepticism as to the validity of the result comparing the experimental and control groups. HS quality was extremely variable: 70% of children took part in centers with good or better quality environment but there were still 30% that may have lacked resources or teaching ability (40% of children had teachers lacking a degree post-high school). Researchers did conduct a follow-up study in 3rd graders to see if there were differences in low versus high quality HS services since there was found to be great variability in resources available. However, there was not a significantly different impact on literacy, vocabulary, or linguistic scores. Nevertheless, the term quality is subjective, so individuals involved in determining the quality of centers may have lacked standardized opinions and the spectrum is not acknowledged when comparing solely superior and inferior environments that truly can be relative; only one study cannot determine this (Peck, 2014). Therefore, while this study showed a moderate benefit of HS, the specifics were inconsistent. More research remains compulsory to understand the skills necessary to be taught and promoted in youth, as well as, the long-term effects in childhood trajectories in at risk environments.
Importance of Community Involvement in Impoverished Communities
Children who develop in impoverished communities have been shown to have negative consequences in various spheres of their development. Besides lacking the monetary and physical resources to provide children with opportunities to interact with others, read, and enhance cognitive abilities, there are numerous indirect effects on a child’s social comprehension. Often, these impoverished environments are also associated with insecure attachments with caregivers, lower self-esteem, and low emotional knowledge. Loneliness and internalizing symptoms are relatively common (Heinze, 2014). In addition, there are numerous effects in the biological sphere with increased levels of cortisol and hyperactive stress responses in these impoverished environments. Therefore, there was, and continues to be a need for policy to promote the healthy development of low-income pre-school children.
Since community scarcity has been associated with lower academic skills and more internalizing/externalizing issues, there is a great interest in the mechanisms of action. HS classrooms act as mediating mechanisms of these educational opportunities, or the lack thereof. Children soak up like sponges, their behavior and knowledge from parents, neighbors, and other people in the community. These poor environments are associated with poor academic performance, criminal behavior, and low salaries in their careers. There are two theories of mechanisms of action: structural and relational. The former focuses on the physical resources available (cultural museums, etc. for cognitive augmentation) and the latter focuses on social norms and interactions, but this theory lacks empirical evidence. Since HS classrooms are in low SES environments, they are often under-resourced; these communities do not have a lot of tax money to serve public programs and these parents can’t afford private education. Further, teacher salaries are between $15,000 and $40,000 so these teaching opportunities cannot draw in the most qualified individuals. One particular study was interested in how the quality of early childhood education affects childrens’ exposure to economic disadvantage. The researchers utilized data from the Impact Study where participants were from HS classrooms across the US, in order for this to be generalizable. 1,904 participants from 993 classrooms across 22 states were used. 2-5 year olds were recruited, 49% wee male and the sample was ethnically diverse: 37% Hispanic, 34% black, 27% white, 2% Asian, and 1% Native American. 37% of mothers did not graduate from high school. The researchers measured cognitive outcomes via vocabulary tests and social-emotional functioning, as well as classroom quality (space, personal care, languages, and activities available) (McCoy, 2015).
There was great heterogeneity in the demographic characteristics with an average of 23.56% of families in the neighborhoods with HS centers falling below the poverty line. The average levels of structural quality and positively-noted teacher-student communications were high. However, there was a range of individual improvements from Head Start: large advances for literacy, somewhat for applied programs, and small reductions in behavioral issues. Past studies provided evidence that childcare quality explains the progression between neighborhood SES and academic & social achievement, but this was the first study that utilized HS to explain the mechanism. There appeared to be a significant indirect relationship between economic disadvantage and learning of youth through physical quality of resources and behavioral problems through relationships between children and teachers. There was a direct correlation between higher poverty and lower cognitive outcomes, but this was not mediated by HS. While this data set was important, there were notable limitations that must be considered. There was a lack of random assignment (though it is impossible to actually assign people to communities), so researchers made up for this in the large sample size. Further, they did not assess classroom curricula which vary greatly in centers (McCoy, 2015). The heterogeneity of these communities stress the role HS plays in the socioeconomic diversity of communities throughout the US and how low income children cannot be ignored. They live in at-risk environments so the next steps are to integrate members in the community to not allow economic disadvantage to affect development and to figure out how to improve HS to correctly address this problem.
Cons of Head Start
Critics of HS focus on the ambiguous nature of the Impact Study to insinuate the lack of effectiveness of the program for at-risk youth. Several argue that any involvement will be equally as beneficial as HS, and some children may not even need this program to flourish in an impoverished environment. They reference the Head Start “fade” which explains evidence that any benefits initiated by HS often fade away once children reach the second grade (perhaps attributed to the low quality school these children would then attend). Only children who were then placed into enriched environments and quality schools had the benefits of HS be sustained. However, many of these arguments remain unfounded not citing primary research articles and only explaining personal opinions.
A report by U.S. News explores the lack of thorough research being conducted. Fifty years after the initiation of HS, there is still a lack of prominent research on this program, which has already graduated nearly 30 million children. This fact is not debated–while there are landmark studies exploring the effects on the longitudinal basis, they are few in number and the validity cannot be assessed without replication. Fewer than half of ninety studies explored in the given analysis were utilizing original research (and this is no doubt true; some of the studies mentioned in this review repeatedly utilize the Impact Study data). The one notable study they discuss promoting original research only showed “potentially positive effects on literacy and arithmetic. This does not shoot down HS due to a lack of positivity, but it does call into question why this positivity cannot be empirically determined utilizing novel data. It is hard to ethically create a control group of children preventing them from accessing early intervention via HS; thus, this field is barren. This is especially apparent through the Impact Study itself where nearly half the control group ended up finding alternative childhood care programs–some even just found another HS program (The Hechinger Report, 2015). While this is a large barrier, a way needs to be determined to view how well HS children can succeed, even this originates as observational studies, and once new ethical ways to involve control groups are determined, transforms into experimental data. Rigorous investigation is still necessary and this skepticism is the clear reason why. The Administration for Children and Families is continuously reforming HS and this distrust has impacted numerous improvements over the past seven years (including better training for teachers).
Many arguments against HS are not due to the risks, but because of the lack of concrete benefits. Susan Gilbert decided to discuss two studies that provided some empirical evidence for the risks of HS. For one, the National Institute of Child and Human Development provided evidence that the more time youths were left in daycare, the more likely they were to develop externalizing issues. Home life characteristics such as caregivers\’ sensitivity could not completely alleviate the effects of this time in daycare. Further, another study explained that children were having more acutely stressful experiences when in childcare centers due to their higher levels of cortisol when in novel environments (Gilbert, 2004). While these did provide some concrete evidence, this does not mean childcare should necessarily be downplayed just from these data. There is a lot of debate over the validity of mechanisms of gathering cortisol measurements, not to mention individual differences in cortisol levels and potential caregiving at home that could affect these levels.
These studies should simply be utilized to stress further research into HS–how to alleviate a stress response from involved children by making the transition easier, and how to provide lessons in social contexts to prevent the rise in aggressive behaviors. Of note and erring on the side of the critics for one moment, these programs are only for 3 to 4 year olds, whereas there is much development prior to the age of three, so policy makers are missing out on a crucial period of intervention for young children that may have more lasting effects. Thus, this delivers more reason for targeted, individualized HS programming.
These urgings lead to the obligation of reevaluating HS and the mechanisms of access. Recent research has attempted to provide evidence to the individualization of programming across disciplines of skills. This has provided some detail into the more effective ways for HS to intervene in various aspects of a child’s development, ie. emotional knowledge (EK) and behavioral modification, and determining if a particular cohort of disadvantaged children would benefit the most from this program. There is a gap in achievement of disadvantaged children compared to rich SES children, but quality preschool programs could reduce this disparity. Past studies have shown small to moderate effects on cognitive skills, socio-emotional development and behavior. Thus, Cooper and colleagues were eager to empirically determine particular subgroups of children who benefit most from HS. They hypothesized that children of immigrants who were learning English, with low educational backgrounds, and those who had single mothers would benefit most from HS. These researchers again utilized data from the Impact Study. 1,464 3 year olds were randomly assigned to HS and 985 were assigned to the control group. They focused on characteristics of family lives that would differentiate childhood success in HS: home composition, language, food stamp status, marital status of mothers, immigrant status, maternal depression, age of mother, parental education, and employment status. Researchers conducted latent class analysis as a model for the categorical variables in 3 steps: define the latent moderator, classify children according to the model, and determine effects of HS when defined by the latent moderator (Cooper, 2014).
In pairwise analyses, children who underwent HS outperformed the control group. However, children in the maternally single, food stamps, and maternal depression subgroup had significantly more externalizing problems (ie. aggressiveness in the HS group as 36.9% vs 16.4% of control children). Children in the subgroup of maternally single, higher education, full-time employed subgroup had a positive effect on teacher-rated outcomes in the HS group. Further, there were positive effects of HS in children of the married, English language learners, low education subgroup; they had extremely lasting benefits until the 1st grade. Children in the single, food stamps, depression subgroup had lasting benefits but not academically—mostly in parental behavior measures. Low risk children had the fewest apparent effects. Thus, the most significant positive effect was in short-term cognitive skills, notably literacy, which was apparent at the end of preschool but not consistently through to first grade. From these results, it can be seen that there is high variability in the success of HS in 3-year-old children. Longer exposure to HS matters more for those who have parents with low prior academic and economic capacities; of note, those who were English language learners needed full immersion in HS to gain English proficiency since that cannot get this exposure in the home (Cooper, 2014). There is a mix of positive and negative effects of HS as it exists now. Those who experienced negative could also be those living in households with higher risk (ie. depression or on food stamps) where home life is putting a damper on any progress that HS is making. Since the positive effects are short-term, it is necessary to continue intensive intervention to allow effects to be maintained and although these findings are generalizable, the distinct effects on various children are important to consider in terms of neighborhood characteristics, individual HS program strengths, and who to target these interventions for.
Another study attempted to promote the education of EK in HS programs through the discussion of emotional learning being crucial for later social interactions. During the ages of 3 to 5, when children can be integrated into HS classrooms, children begin to recognize, label, and understand others’ emotions. EK has been shown to be positively associated to social competence and negatively associated with internalizing/ externalizing issues. Further, this also aids in regulating childrens’ own states, and development is complex. Despite this niche, most studies in the past only look at this through the lens of “problem” children who are disruptive. In the classroom, things happen quickly and around many peers, so it is imperative to hone these skills to notice even the smallest of cues, through vocal or body language signifying rejection, loneliness, or exclusion by peers. Poor EK skills have thus been associated with more peer victimization and later internalizing problems; these individuals are more reluctant to join interactions with their peers. This study, therefore, meant to augment understanding between EK and school experience in youths, utilizing low SES children at risk for poorer development. They hypothesized that higher EK would be associated with not as many negative social outcomes. Contextually focused EK aspects (behavioral, emotion-situation knowledge) would act as better predictors of social functioning than basic EK (solely recognition). These researchers uniquely utilized a new dataset of 134 children in the northeast US, 42% of which were boys with a mean age of 60 months. 77% were Caucasian, income was $25,740 on average, and there were 37 classrooms with about 18 children per class. Participants underwent interviews and various developmental tasks while teachers completed questionnaires. EK was measured by the Affect Knowledge Test (AKT) which presented faces, stories, and puppets as stimuli, and the Emotion Matching Test (EMT) which utilized photos of children as stimuli with the emotions of happy, sad, mad/angry, and scared since these are the most common emotions at this age. These measures were meant to assess emotion recognition (identifying but not naming emotions), expressive EK (generating names for emotions), emotion situation knowledge (how people would feel in an emotional situation), and behavioral EK (behavioral cues and asking how people would feel in a novel situation) (Heinze, 2014).
There were numerous distinct results, which implicated the importance of learning various EK measures in HS classrooms. Language was significantly positively associated with all EK measures (supporting results from another study conducted by Eggum-Wilkens on HS children in 2014). Expressive EK was negatively associated with loneliness, significantly for boys, it was a predictor of parent-reporting internalizing issues. Emotion situation knowledge was not associated with loneliness but girls with more knowledge had parents who did not note as many internalizing characteristics. Behavioral EK was negatively associated with loneliness and rejection and self-reported victimization was related to negative peer reviews. These results must be taken with a grain of salt, however, due to the small sample size and the fact that children can be poor self-reporters, and teachers can’t always tell what children are feeling. Teachers have been shown to be better at reporting externalizing rather than more subtle internalizing problems. Nonetheless, EK recognition and expression were correlated with positive social functioning while many other measures were associated with loneliness but not necessarily rejection. There appeared to be some sex dissimilarities but they were not significant—this may be due to the emerging differences during this age. There were no significant differences in EK by sex but it did play a role in moderating many relations between EK and social functioning (Heinze, 2014). There is a prominent importance of future work focusing on individual facets of EK so that policy makers can intervene in classes like HS, especially if parents don’t have the resources or time to intervene themselves. These classrooms need to do additional work, not just teaching children words for emotions; there needs to be a focus on recognizing behavioral cues in reality.
Seidenfeld continued this research on EK since this development is associated with academic success, social friendships, and prosocial behaviors. This research focuses on the development of theory of mind (ToM) since it is important to precisely decipher and respond to social cues and for communication. In preschool, children can recognize and label emotions; by kindergarten, they start to interpret causes and consequences of emotions. Further, around age 4, children can have false belief understanding showing their ability for children to mentally represent others’ internal feelings. While the constructs of EK and ToM develop individually, both are integrated throughout childhood. Disadvantaged children have been shown to lag in development of social functioning, especially through the mechanism of ToM. The researchers believe that verbal ability could mediate this since the children know fewer words, a strong predictor of lower EK. Thus, they utilized the lenses of ToM and EK to determine the relationship between cognitive and emotional development in at-risk children. Seven inner city HS centers were study sites with a sample size of 60 children: 31 boys, 90% of the total sample living under the poverty level. This was a longitudinal intervention study, where the experimental group had emotional intervention (33), and the remainder had another sociocultural program. They utilized the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) to measure verbal ability, and the EMT to measure EK (Seidenfeld, 2014).
Kindergarten measures of EK and ToM did not have substantial differences between experimental and control groups but there was a significant difference of preschool EK based upon treatment group. In terms of ToM performance, 50% of children failed all tasks, but 30% got all three tasks right (these participants had higher verbal abilities). There was support of the hypothesis that ToM predicts differences in EK development in the setting of HS classrooms. ToM can be a mediating variable between verbal ability and EK development. When controlling for verbal ability, false belief understanding in preschool predicted situation-based EK in kindergarten signifying that they can separate internal states from external reality—aiding in perceptions of observation of emotions. Thus, delayed false belief understanding in poorer children can help to explain the detrimental socio-emotional competence compared to higher SES peers (Seidenfeld, 2014). Thus, HS needs to promote EK activities by gaining exposure to emotional language and behaviors if they may not have these learning opportunities at home. ToM is currently only included in learning for autistic children but this particular set of skills needs to be expanded to a more diverse set of HS classrooms to aid in academic and social knowledge amplification.
Future Implications/ Directions
Flint, Michigan has been in a critical period over the past years. After finding lead in the water that had been utilized from a new river that was high in salts and corrosion, there are numerous aspects of the environment and community that are at risk. Notably in this realm, there are concerns over lead exposure in youth. Lead poisoning can have critical cognitive and emotional reverberations in adulthood if exposed when the brain is still developing in youth. However, policy makers are attempting to offset this potential exposure to lead by funding educational programs. It is important to note how this program is allowing public officers to intervene and promote child development. The Health and Human Service Department is designating $3.6 million in funding to transportation to allow families to gather drinking water for their children. Additionally, they were expanding the HS programs for 78 youths, lengthening the school year by three weeks, and opening enough new classrooms for 51 students in the most at-risk areas. They explain that this additional funding and time in the classroom will allow for the expansion of services and resources both during school and through home interventions (Fox, 2016). While this attention is well warranted, numbers estimate that between 6,000 and 12,000 could have been affected by this lead exposure, so this programming benefiting less that one hundred individuals, is minimal at most. These children are extremely susceptible to lifelong effects and intervention needs to be initiated now before it is too late. With this developing realm of research, individualized HS is showing promise for the most at-risk youth–and personally, this seems like a region with a high density of at-risk youth that require more than just negligible increases in funding and resources.
Since the initiation of HS programming to endorse the quality development of impoverished children, there have been numerous voices arguing for and against the benefits and efficacy. While this may be true, this initiative is still providing a boosting start to the steps necessary to provide the same resources and opportunities to children in poor environments compared to those rich in resources. As David Kirp argued for the Perry study, children acting as active learners allowed them to delve into education and not just ignore any attempts to augment their knowledge. This does provide indication that the uncertainty of results is attributed to the lack of standardization in quality of HS. If teachers were paid better, and only 5 children cohabitated a classroom at a time, like in the Perry environment, these moderately positive effects may be stronger in intensity and lengthier in duration (Kirp, 2004). Further, as US News explored, much more original research needs to be conducted, not just relying on the data released from the Impact Study, so that more of the nearly 30 million children who have taken part in HS can be viewed to determine their developmental trajectories (The Hershinger Report, 2015). This educational opportunity has stimulated the area of research looking at valuable ways to intervene. While more research definitely needs to be conducted over how to truly enact the methodology of HS and how to individually target it (especially in terms of EK), this has positively impacted lawmakers and others in the public to realize there is a prominent importance of public policy to play a role in enriching environments supporting child maturity.