Child Care

Kevin Lewis

September 18, 2022

Unconditional Cash and Family Investments in Infants: Evidence from a Large-Scale Cash Transfer Experiment in the U.S.
Lisa Gennetian et al.
NBER Working Paper, August 2022


A key policy question in evaluating social programs to address childhood poverty is how families receiving unconditional financial support would spend those funds. Economists have limited empirical evidence on this topic in the U.S. We provide causal estimates of financial and time investments in infants among families living in poverty from a large-scale, multi-site randomized controlled study of monthly unconditional cash transfers starting at the time of a child’s birth. We find that the cash transfers increased spending on child-specific goods and mothers’ early-learning activities with their infants. The marginal propensity to consume child-focused items from the cash transfer exceeded that from other income, consistent with the behavioral cues in the cash transfer design. We find no statistically detectable offsets in household earnings nor statistically detectable impacts in other pre-registered outcomes related to general household expenditures, maternal labor supply, infants’ time in childcare, or mothers’ subjective well-being.

Pregnancy scares, pregnancy uncertainty, and abortion attitude change
Lauren Newmyer & Scott Yabiku
Social Science Research, forthcoming


Women's attitudes towards abortion are often assessed infrequently in their lives. This measurement may not capture how lifetime events, such as reproductive experiences, potentially influence attitudes towards abortion. Although reproductive attitudes can fluctuate with life's circumstances, there is little research on how abortion attitudes may change when a woman suspects she might be pregnant. Using an intensive longitudinal dataset collected in Michigan, the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life (RDSL) study (2008–2012), we test the relationship between the timing of pregnancy scares and uncertainty and abortion attitudes using hybrid effects models. We find that women become less supportive of abortion while experiencing a pregnancy scare or uncertainty; however, this association exists only during a scare or uncertainty. These findings highlight that abortion attitudes may change when a woman suspects she might be pregnant. However, attitudinal change may not last past this period.

Are mobile phone ownership and age of acquisition associated with child adjustment? A 5-year prospective study among low-income Latinx children
Xiaoran Sun et al.
Child Development, forthcoming


This prospective, longitudinal study examined associations between whether and when children first acquire a mobile phone and their adjustment measures, among low-income Latinx children. Children (N = 263; 55% female; baseline Mage = 9.5) and their parents were assessed annually for 5 years from 2012. Children first acquired a mobile phone at a mean (SD) age of 11.62 (1.41) years. Pre-registered multilevel models tested associations linking phone ownership, phone acquisition age, and the interaction between ownership and acquisition age to levels and changing trends of depressive symptoms, school grades, and reported and objectively assessed sleep. Results showed no statistically significant associations, controlling the False Discovery Rate. Findings suggest an absence of meaningful links from mobile phone ownership and acquisition age to child adjustment.

Longitudinal effects and environmental moderation of ALDH2 and ADH1B gene variants on substance use from age 14 to 40
Gretchen Saunders et al.
Development and Psychopathology, forthcoming


Alcohol use and dependence are strongly affected by variation in aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) and, to a lesser extent, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH1B) genes. We use this genetic variation with an adoption design to test the causal role of alcohol use on other drug use, as well as the moderating role of adoptive parent, sibling, and peer alcohol use. Longitudinal models were run on 412 genotyped adopted individuals of East Asian ancestry with multiple assessments between ages 14 and 40. We found robust associations between alcohol frequency, quantity, and maximum drinks and ALDH2, but not ADH1B, status. The magnitude of the ALDH2 protective effect increased with age, particularly for maximum drinks, though estimates were smaller than previously reported in ancestrally similar individuals in East/North-East Asian countries. These results suggest that sociocultural factors in Minnesota may reduce the protective effects of ALDH2. We found that peer alcohol use, but not parent or sibling use, predicted adopted offspring’s use, and that these environmental influences did not vary by ALDH2 status. Finally, we did not find strong evidence of associations between ALDH2 status and tobacco, marijuana, or illegal drug use, contrary to expectation if alcohol serves as a gateway to use of other drugs.

Heritability of Psychotic Experiences in Adolescents and Interaction With Environmental Risk
Mark Taylor et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, September 2022, Pages 889-897

Design, Setting, and Participants: This twin study, conducted from December 1, 2014, to August 31, 2020, included a UK-based sample of twin pairs aged 16 years. This investigation evaluated the extent to which the genetic variance underlying psychotic experiences and the magnitude of the heritability of psychotic experiences was moderated by exposure to 5 environmental risk factors (bullying, dependent life events, cannabis use, tobacco use, and low birth weight). Psychotic experiences were assessed by 5 self-reported measures and 1 parent-reported measure. Participants’ exposure to environmental risks was assessed at birth and age 12 to 16 years. Structural equation models were used to assess differences in the variance in and heritability of psychotic experiences across these exposures, while controlling for gene-environment correlation effects. Analyses were repeated in an independent Swedish sample. Data analyses were performed from September 1, 2018, to August 31, 2020.

Results: A total of 4855 twin pairs (1926 female same-sex pairs, 1397 male same-sex pairs, and 1532 opposite-sex pairs) were included from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), and 6435 twin pairs (2358 female same-sex pairs, 1861 male same-sex pairs, and 2216 opposite-sex pairs) were included from the Child and Adolescent Twin Study in Sweden (CATSS). Mean age of twins from TEDS was 16.5 years. Mean age of twins from CATSS was 18.6 years. More exposure to environmental risk factors was associated with having more psychotic experiences. The relative contribution of genetic influences to psychotic experiences was lower with increasing environmental exposure for paranoia (44%; 95% CI, 33%-53% to 38%; 95% CI, 14%-58%), cognitive disorganization (47%; 95% CI, 38%-51% to 32%; 95% CI, 11%-45%), grandiosity (41%; 95% CI, 29%-52% to 32%; 95% CI, 9%-48%), and anhedonia (49%; 95% CI, 42%-53% to 37%; 95% CI, 15%-54%). This pattern was replicated for the measure of psychotic experiences in the independent Swedish replication sample. The heritability of hallucinations and parent-rated negative symptoms remained relatively constant.

Associations Between Genetic Risk for Adult Suicide Attempt and Suicidal Behaviors in Young Children in the US
Phil Lee et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming

Design, Setting, and Participants: This case-control study examined data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, a population-based longitudinal study of 11 878 US children enrolled at age 9 and 10 years from September 2016 to November 2018. Youth reports of suicidal ideation (SI) and SAs were obtained from the Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorder and Schizophrenia at baseline and 2 subsequent years. After conservative quality control of genotype data, this analysis focused on 4344 unrelated individuals of European ancestry. Data analysis was conducted from November 2020 to February 2022.

Results: Of 4344 children of European ancestry (2045 [47.08%] female; mean [SD] age, 9.93 [0.62] years), significant associations were found between children’s SA PRSs and their lifetime SAs with the most robust association in the follow-up year 2 (odds ratio, 1.43 [95% CI, 1.18-1.75]; corrected P = 1.85 × 10−3; Nagelkerke pseudo R2 = 1.51%). These associations remained significant after accounting for children’s sociodemographic backgrounds, psychopathology symptoms, parental histories of suicide and mental health, and PRSs for major depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (likelihood ratio test P < .05). Children’s depressive mood and aggressive behavior were the most significant partial mediators of SA genetic risk on SAs (mediation analysis P < 1 × 10−16). Children’s behavioral problems, such as attention problems, rule-breaking behavior, and social problems, also partially mediated the association of SA PRSs with SAs (mediation analysis false discover rate < 0.05).



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