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

Many supplements contain unapproved, dangerous ingredients: study

October 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—U.S. health officials have issued more than 700 warnings during the last decade about the sale of dietary supplements that contain unapproved and potentially dangerous drug ingredients, new research reveals.

Age at which women experience their first period is linked to their sons' age at puberty

October 12, 2018
The age at which young women experience their first menstrual bleeding is linked to the age at which their sons start puberty, according to the largest study to investigate this association in both sons and daughters.

First ever meta-analysis on Indian lead exposure reveals link to devastating intellectual disability in children

October 12, 2018
New Macquarie University research has revealed the devastating disease burden associated with elevated blood lead levels in India. The results of the first ever meta-analysis of Indian blood lead levels found the burden of ...

The long-term effects of maternal high-fat diets

October 12, 2018
If a mother eats a high-fat diet, this can have a negative effect on the health of her offspring—right down to her great-grandchildren. This is the conclusion drawn by researchers at ETH Zurich from a study with mice.

Sit-stand office desks cut daily sitting time and appear to boost job performance

October 11, 2018
Sit-stand workstations that allow employees to stand, as well as sit, while working on a computer reduce daily sitting time and appear to have a positive impact on job performance and psychological health, finds a trial published ...

Molecular link between body weight, early puberty identified

October 11, 2018
Becoming overweight at a young age can trigger a molecular chain reaction that leads some girls to experience puberty early, according to new research published in Nature Communications.

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.