Kevin Lewis

May 03, 2016

Saving Children, Controlling Families: Punishment, Redistribution, and Child Protection

Frank Edwards

American Sociological Review, forthcoming

This study shows that state efforts at child protection are structured by the policy regimes in which they are enmeshed. Using administrative data on child protection, criminal justice, and social welfare interventions, I show that children are separated from their families and placed into foster care far more frequently in states with extensive and punitive criminal justice systems than in states with broad and generous welfare programs. However, large welfare bureaucracies interact with welfare program enrollment to create opportunities for the surveillance of families, suggesting that extensive and administratively complex welfare states engage in "soft" social control through the surveillance and regulation of family behavior. The article further shows that institutionalization, a particularly restrictive form of foster care placement, is least common in states with broad and generous welfare regimes and generally more common under punitive regimes. Taken together, these findings show that policy regimes influence the interaction between families and the state through their proximate effects on family structure and well-being and through institutional effects that delimit the routines and scripts through which policymakers and street-level bureaucrats intervene to protect children.


Can parents detect 8- to 16-year-olds' lies? Parental biases, confidence, and accuracy

Angela Evans, Jasmine Bender & Kang Lee

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, July 2016, Pages 152-158

Honesty is a crucial aspect of a trusting parent-child relationship. Given that close relationships often impair our ability to detect lies and are related to a truth bias, parents may have difficulty with detecting their own children's lies. The current investigation examined the lie detection abilities (accuracy, biases, and confidence) of three groups of participants: non-parent group (undergraduates), parent-other group (parents who evaluated other peoples' children's statements), and parent-own group (parents who evaluated their own children's statements). Participants were presented with videos of 8- to 16-year-olds telling either the truth or a lie about having peeked at the answers to a test and were asked to evaluate the veracity of the statement along with their confidence in their judgment. All groups performed at chance in the accuracy of their veracity judgments. Furthermore, although all groups tended to hold a truth bias for 8- to 16-year-olds, the parent-own group held a much stronger truth bias than the other two groups. All groups were also highly confident in their judgments (70%-76%), but confidence ratings failed to predict accuracy. These findings, taken together, suggest that the close relationship that parents share with their own children may be related to a bias toward believing their children's statements and, hence, a failure to detect their lies.


Parental Job Loss and Children's Long-Term Outcomes: Evidence from 7 Million Fathers' Layoffs

Nathaniel Hilger

American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, forthcoming

How do parental layoffs and their large attendant income losses affect children's long-term outcomes? This question has proven difficult to answer due to the endogeneity of parental layoffs. I overcome this problem by exploiting the timing of 7 million fathers' layoffs when children are age 12-29 in administrative data for the United States. Layoffs dramatically reduce family income but only slightly reduce college enrollment, college quality and early career earnings. These effects are consistent with a weak estimated propensity to spend on college out of marginal parental income. I find that larger effects based on firm closures stem from selection.


Parent gender and child removal in physical abuse and neglect cases

Brandon Crawford & Mindy Bradley

Children and Youth Services Review, June 2016, Pages 224-230

Criminal justice research frequently investigates relationships between punishment decisions and demographic characteristics of the accused, such as gender, race, and age. While there are many similarities between criminal justice and child welfare cases, research on child maltreatment has yet to examine potential demographic influences on case outcomes. The current study examines relationships between parent gender, type of maltreatment, and child removal among agency responses to child maltreatment cases. Using data collected by the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), we identify differences in the likelihood of child removal from the parental home across type of maltreatment and perpetrator gender. Our results indicate that mother perpetrators of physical abuse not only face significantly higher likelihood of removal than mother perpetrators of neglect, but are more at risk for losing their children than father perpetrators of both physical abuse and neglect. Findings suggest that gendered attributions and stereotypes regarding parenting can shape assessments of parents' blameworthiness, dangerousness, and rehabilitative potential. We propose that future research on child maltreatment cases adapt and apply justice concepts and frameworks to uncover potential unwarranted demographic disparities in agency decision-making.


Sex stereotypes influence adults' perception of babies' cries

David Reby et al.

BMC Psychology, April 2016

Methods: We used playback experiments combining natural and re-synthesised cries of 3 month-old babies to investigate whether the interindividual variation in the fundamental frequency (pitch) of cries affected adult listeners' identification of the baby's sex, their perception the baby's femininity and masculinity, and whether these biases interacted with their perception of the level of discomfort expressed by the cry.

Results: We show that low-pitched cries are more likely to be attributed to boys and high-pitched cries to girls, despite the absence of sex differences in pitch. Moreover, low-pitched boys are perceived as more masculine and high-pitched girls are perceived as more feminine. Finally, adult men rate relatively low-pitched cries as expressing more discomfort when presented as belonging to boys than to girls.

Conclusion: Such biases in caregivers' responses to babies' cries may have implications on children's immediate welfare and on the development of their gender identity.


What Predicts Children's Fixed and Growth Intelligence Mind-Sets? Not Their Parents' Views of Intelligence but Their Parents' Views of Failure

Kyla Haimovitz & Carol Dweck

Psychological Science, forthcoming

Children's intelligence mind-sets (i.e., their beliefs about whether intelligence is fixed or malleable) robustly influence their motivation and learning. Yet, surprisingly, research has not linked parents' intelligence mind-sets to their children's. We tested the hypothesis that a different belief of parents - their failure mind-sets - may be more visible to children and therefore more prominent in shaping their beliefs. In Study 1, we found that parents can view failure as debilitating or enhancing, and that these failure mind-sets predict parenting practices and, in turn, children's intelligence mind-sets. Study 2 probed more deeply into how parents display failure mind-sets. In Study 3a, we found that children can indeed accurately perceive their parents' failure mind-sets but not their parents' intelligence mind-sets. Study 3b showed that children's perceptions of their parents' failure mind-sets also predicted their own intelligence mind-sets. Finally, Study 4 showed a causal effect of parents' failure mind-sets on their responses to their children's hypothetical failure. Overall, parents who see failure as debilitating focus on their children's performance and ability rather than on their children's learning, and their children, in turn, tend to believe that intelligence is fixed rather than malleable.


Targeted or Universal Coverage? Assessing Heterogeneity in the Effects of Universal Childcare

Michael Kottelenberg & Steven Lehrer

NBER Working Paper, March 2016

We extend earlier research evaluating the Quebec Family Policy by providing the first evidence on the distributional effects of universal child care on two specific developmental outcomes. Our analysis uncovers substantial policy relevant heterogeneity in the estimated effect of access to subsidized child care across two developmental score distributions for children from two-parent families. Whereas past research reported findings of negative effects on mothers and children from these families, igniting controversy, our estimates reveal a more nuanced image that formal child care can indeed boost developmental outcomes for children from some households: particularly disadvantaged single-parent households. In addition, we document significant heterogeneity that differs by child gender. We present suggestive evidence that the heterogeneity in policy effects that emerges across child gender and family type is consistent with differences in the home learning environments generated by parents behaviors that are previously present and are shaped by responses to the policy.


To trust or not to trust: Social decision-making in post-institutionalized, internationally adopted youth

Clio Pitula et al.

Developmental Science, forthcoming

Chronic parental maltreatment has been associated with lower levels of interpersonal trust, and depriving environments have been shown to predict short-sighted, risk-averse decision-making. The present study examined whether a circumscribed period of adverse care occurring only early in life was associated with biases in trust behavior. Fifty-three post-institutionalized (PI) youth, adopted internationally on average by 1 year of age, and 33 never-institutionalized, non-adopted youth (Mage = 12.9 years) played a trust game. Participants decided whether or not to share coins with a different anonymous peer in each trial with the potential to receive a larger number of coins in return. Trials were presented in blocks that varied in the degree to which the peers behaved in a trustworthy (reciprocal) or untrustworthy (non-reciprocal) manner. A comparison condition consisted of a computerized lottery with the same choices and probabilistic risk as the peer trials. Non-adopted comparison youth showed a tendency to share more with peers than to invest in the lottery and tended to maintain their level of sharing across trials despite experiencing trials in which peers failed to reciprocate. In contrast, PI children, particularly those who were adopted over 1 year of age, shared less with peers than they invested in the lottery and quickly adapted their sharing behavior to peers' responses. These results suggest that PI youth were more mistrusting, more sensitive to both defection and reciprocation, and potentially more accurate in their trusting decisions than comparison youth. Results support the presence of a sensitive period for the development of trust in others, whereby conditions early in life may set long-term biases in decision-making.


Improved Child Problem Behavior Enhances the Parents' Relationship Quality: A Randomized Trial

Martina Zemp et al.

Journal of Family Psychology, forthcoming

Although a large body of literature indicates that interparental discord is a primary risk factor for child maladjustment, less research has examined children's behavior as a predictor of the parents' relationship quality. The goal of this randomized trial intervention study was to examine the effects of improved problem behavior in children on the parents' relationship quality 1 year later in a community sample. One hundred couples were randomly assigned to (a) a parenting training (Triple P) or (b) an untreated control group. Interparental relationship quality, parenting behavior, and child problem behavior were assessed by means of questionnaires completed by the parents before and 2 weeks after completion of the treatment and at 6-month and 1-year follow-ups. Mother-report of improved child problem behavior and father-report of improved parenting skills predicted both partners' relationship quality at the 1-year follow-up for the Triple P group only. The findings suggest that programs aimed at reducing child problem behavior hold promise to also enhance the couple's relationship quality.

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