Federal welfare programs can have negative effects on children's cognitive scores

June 13, 2011, University of Missouri-Columbia

The United States federal government supports many welfare and entitlement programs that attempt to eliminate poverty by providing financial assistance to families in need. Now, a researcher at the University of Missouri has found that requirements for some of these welfare programs can create stress on families, which can have a negative effect on young children.

Colleen Heflin, an associate professor in the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri, studied the cognitive scores of young whose families receive assistance from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is the largest federal support program for families with children. Heflin found that the cognitive scores of three-year-old children whose families were on TANF were much lower than children who were not on the program.

"Our findings suggest that the way these assistance programs are structured could have negative effects on child outcomes," Heflin said. "While TANF traditionally has been the main social program to offer financial support to low-income households with children, current program requirements may create pressures that conflict with the objective of improving child outcomes."

For example, families receiving assistance from TANF must comply with requirements ranging from and attending job development classes to accepting jobs that require to be away from their families during evenings and weekend. By examining results from a Princeton University and Columbia University "Fragile Families and Child Well-Being" study, Heflin found that the stress created within the when parents are trying to meet these requirements ultimately results in the decreased cognitive scores of the . However, Heflin found that social programs based in the tax system, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, show no such negative effects on the children of the household.

"The design of the program matters," Heflin said. "An income-increasing program through the tax system doesn't show these negative effects. However, programs like TANF seem to hurt kids, which is the opposite of what we want our social programs to be doing. We don't create policies to hurt young children, we try to help them. TANF has created enough pressure on families trying to comply with its regulations that it has actually begun to exert a negative force on these families at the margins."

Heflin says the next step in her research will be to study the federal Unemployment Insurance program to see what effects that program has on children. This study was published in Children and Youth Services Review and was co-authored Sharon Kukla-Acevado, an assistant professor at Central Michigan University.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.