Latino toddlers lag in cognitive growth

Low-income Mexican-American babies are just as healthy as white babies, a Berkeley study finds. But Latino toddlers fall behind in language and cognitive skills by the age of two or three.

Basic cognition proficiencies for infants at 9 to 15 months of age – such as comprehending their mother’s speech and beginning to use their own words and gestures -were found to be statistically equal between Latino and white children, said Fuller. But by 24- to 36-months of age, Mexican-American toddlers lag their white counterparts by up to a half-year in terms of word comprehension, speaking with varying complexity and working with their mothers on simple learning tasks as assessed in English or Spanish, the researchers found.

The Latino mothers had much less education than the white mothers in the study.

. . . “The great majority of young Latino children benefit from two warm and caring parents at home,” (Education Professor Bruce) Fuller said. “But the reading activities, educational games, and performing the ABCs for Grandma, so often witnessed in middle-class homes, are less consistently seen in poor Latino households.”

I’d love to see a Sesame Street-type show aimed at mothers and aired in both Spanish and English. Parents who haven’t grown up with books and learning games need models.

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  1. There is a Spanish language Sesame Street for the children. When it comes to the mothers, do you think these mothers would watch such shows if they were available?

  2. Just as healthy? If I remember correctly that would put them around 25th in the world in regards to children’s health and infant mortality.

  3. Gahrie –

    I definitely think they would. It would be highly beneficial for them and for their child’s development.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    As you know, in the US, infant mortality is measured by every live birth, no matter how challenged.
    In other countries, the child born before so and so many days of term–varies by country–or under such and such a weight–varies–is considered a still birth and not a live birth. When the child dies, it is not infant mortality in those countries. It is considered infant mortality in this country. That accounts for the bulk of the difference.
    You know. You just didn’t know others know.
    Anyway, when measured the same way, either way, the US is far, far above 25th place. Which you know. Now you know others know.
    Nice to learn something, right?

  5. Student of History says:

    There’s a good bit of research that the brain needs to be in the presence of the language speakers and engaged with them. Language heard passively over the TV even with exciting graphics doesn’t have the same effect. Pushing Spanish Sesame Street or videos as a solution could make the problem worse.

    See Jane Healy’s books Your Child’s Growing Mind and Endangered Minds.

  6. One of the libraries in my area holds Spanish-language story times once per week and it appears popular based on what I’ve observed when I happened to be at the library at the same time.

    Maybe local high schools could offer credit to native Spanish-speaking students who volunteer to lead these kinds of library story hours. It would be a win-win situation for both the preschool kids and the high school students (who would then know how to read to young kids when they have their own children some day).

  7. Also, some countries don’t count deaths within the first 24 hours as live births. Further also; as manager of my son’s travel soccer team, I checked the registration cards (proof of age-group, as defined by FIFA)of an African team and discovered that all 18 players had Jan 1 birthdates. Their manager told me that was how it was done there; if you survived your first year. There is also the question of accuracy, or lack thereof, in registration and record-keeping for much of the developing world.

  8. “Healthy” includes birth weight, used as a predictor of future health, as well as infant mortality. Low-income Latinas have babies who start out on a par with babies of middle-class whites. (Researchers think that’s because Latinas are less likely to drink alcohol or smoke.) Low-income black women are more likely to have premature and small babies; the mortality rate is much higher.

  9. Richard,

    I greatly overestimated the US postion, we’re actually much worse off, depending on which source you use. I got my info from:

    Where they define infant mortality as

    DEFINITION: This entry gives the number of deaths of infants under one year old in a given year per 1,000 live births in the same year; included is the total death rate, and deaths by sex, male and female. This rate is often used as an indicator of the level of health in a country.

    They got the definition from the CIA World Factbook,

    which lists the US as being 44th.

    Any other beliefs you need be to debunk for you? Apparently, YOU didn’t know this.

  10. Like old times, hey Mike?

    You make some over-the-top claim which you buttress with either union editorials – sort of out-sourcing your misrepresentations – or directly misrepresent some primary source. Then I squeeze the source out of you and point out the misrepresentation.

    I guess you just wanted to cut to the chase, huh?

  11. Now now Allen, is the US govt. not a good enough source for you?

    Are do you have a problem with FACTS as opposed to right wing talking points? I have presented the FACTS, if you feel they are “some over-the-top claim” then prove them wrong.

  12. And yes, I know that should have been “Or” not Are.

  13. WAIT A MINUTE! I remember what Allen’s problem with the CIA World Factbook is. He doesn’t like it b/c it says the US, which supposedly had such terrible public schools, has a literacy rate of 99%! At least according to none other than the US govt!

    What’s the matter Allen? Facts I mean cat got your tongue.

    If you need some help I could do a Google search for right wing nut job groups that might have the statistics you need to dispute me.

  14. Richard Aubrey says:

    I already told you. You’re BUS TID.
    The key is “live births”. In the US, it’s any new born who draws even a single breath, even if he or she dies in the next hour.
    In other countries, there are several categories of what we would consider “live births” which they consider “Still births” and the subsequent deaths are therefore not “infant mortality”.

  15. Richard Nieporent says:

    Low-income Mexican-American babies are just as healthy as white babies, a Berkeley study finds. But Latino toddlers fall behind in language and cognitive skills by the age of two or three.

    What does infant mortality have to do with this topic? The answer of course is nothing. Just ignore MIT when he is acting like a troll.

  16. Margo/Mom says:

    I’m not sure what exactly the point is either (re: infant mortality), but I suspect it has something to do with things going on in Congress this week.

    I checked into some consistent infant mortality statistics–that is totally within the US. We have a pretty wide range in theis country alone. Top of the list, with nearly 8 deaths per 1,000 live births is DC. Bottom of the list at 4 is NY State–and a lovely range between. This suggests to me that there are other variables coming into play than simply who is doing the counting–and that it is likely that we can do better overall.

    But, regarding the current question, it is clear that prenatal and early infant care are most likely not the cause of the perceived difference in cognitive development. BTW–there was a time in our history when the available research would have pointed to the harms associated with children being exposed to two languages–which suggested that being bilingual was harmful to cognitive development. This justified efforts of schools and others to snuff out any mother tongue other than English. It was later found that the research suffered from over-reliance on language-based testing–in English–and rejected.

  17. Thanks for coming apart at the seams Mike. Saves me chore of having to take you apart.

    The reason for the discussion about infant mortality in the U.S. versus other countries is to divert from the information about Latino toddlers falling behind even though they’re health is similar. One of the favored excuses for kids not doing well in public schools is socio-economic status.

    Mike’s never met an excuse for the state of the education system that places every iota of responsibility outside the education system that he didn’t immediately fall in love with and repeat ad nauseum. Mike won’t willingly give up one of his talking points so he tries to obfuscate the issue by changing the subject to something more to his liking.

    How’m I doing Mike?

  18. Richard Aubrey,

    I provided proof of what I was asserting, you have provided nothing. Please cite your evidence of what you are asserting. How convenient of you to ignore the fact the US govt. says infant mortality is an indicator of overall health in the country, which is what this topic is about. Looks like YOU don’t know what you’re talking about again.

    Where are your facts, Richard Aubrey?


    As usual I see you have NO PROBLEM ignoring facts.

    BTW, did you happen to check out the CIA FACTbook I cited?

  19. Richard Aubrey says:

    Mike. Anybody can say infant mortality is a useful gauge. They’re probably right.
    My point is that infant mortality is measured differently in the other countries whose numbers are supposedly better than ours.
    I don’t need to repeat myself on the ways in which the measures differ, only make the point that your attempt at distraction failed.

  20. Richard,

    So in other words, you don’t have any proof to back up what your saying?

  21. Richard Aubrey says:

    I know you’ve done your homework. I know you know better. So why should I tell you what you already know but hope we don’t?
    Now, suppose I presented half a dozen articles on different measures of infant mortality and how that affects the US’ standing. Would that change your mind?
    See? That’s why I don’t bother.

  22. Well I’m sure you could Richard, I found one funded by Agency for Health Care Policy and Research from 1994. However their current data, which can be found here,

    actually shows 6.9 deaths per 1000 livebirths, a figure higher than the CIA World Factbook has. Since this figure comes 11 years after the original, I’m not sure what your point was.

    The point is, I have presented 2 places to verify my statement and you have presented none. Yet YOU accuse me of somehow mistating, inventing or distorting facts.

  23. Richard Aubrey says:

    You should be on Dancing With The Stars. You move laterally pretty good.
    The point is the definition of “live births”.
    Case in point. In England a couple of weeks ago, a kid was born preemie. Two days too early to qualify for care. He lived for four hours while his mother begged, fruitlessly, for help. One nurse said, without the authority to do anything, “He’s a fighter.”
    In Britain, this is not a live birth, so his death is not infant mortality.
    In the US, this would be an atrocity. Besides, it doesn’t happen. However, if the usual heroics were inadequate and the poor kid died, it would be a live birth and a counter toward infant mortality.
    Same case, different measuring tools, different results.

  24. Proof Richard, proof! Can you cite any evidence for what you are claiming or are you just passing along stories that you’ve heard?

    I given you 2 US government sources that back up what I claimed, you have provided nothing!

    I’m not surprised Allen is staying out of it, he probably went to the CIA WorldFact Book, clicked on the “People” section and discovered where the US ranks in percentage of GDP spent on education.

  25. Richard Aubrey says:

    Proof of what? Do you want proof of different measures of “live birth”?
    We already know about the raw numbers. The point is the definition. Do you want proof of the different definitions?
    If I get the proof, would that change your mind?
    Of course not.
    So why should I bother? I know better. You know better. I know you know better.

  26. Richard Aubrey says:

    I can’t speak for Allen. If he’s like me, he’s about to decide you’re a waste of anybody’s time.
    I checked the factbook. What amount of money PER STUDENT is represented by Kiribati’s 20% of their miniscule GDP? Think it’s more or less than that represented by our 5.4% of our GDP?
    The point is the amount of money spent PER STUDENT.
    You are trying to do what? Prove you can read? Fool people who are miles smarter than you?
    This is so obvious that I have dropped my slight presumption that you really don’t know better. Nobody is that dumb.
    Your problem is that you think the rest of us are. We’re not.
    Geez. Get a new gig.

  27. Miles smarter than me? I think not! I’m merely pointing out that alot of the “facts” presented by the “reform” crowd are pure crap.

    If you think % if GDP spent on education is not important, than why do you think the CIA chose to have it in their factbook? If infant mortality rate, for which I have twice shown a US govt. definition, is not important than why is it included?

  28. No Mike, what you ‘present’ are either misrepresentations, as in your “Texas admits to only funding education at 55% of what’s mandated” or when you tout a union editorial as factual or invective-laced opinion as in “alot of the “facts” presented by the “reform” crowd are pure crap.”

  29. Allen,

    The 55% number came from an actual state study, funded by the Texas House of Representative’s Sub-Committee on Education.

    Once again, I see you haven’t lost your ability to ignore facts.

  30. Who are you trying to kid, Mike? The only back-up you gave for that number was a court case in which the judge appointed an economist to determine what level of funding was necessary to achieve the goals required by state law. The economist decided Texas was only providing 55% of the funding necessary and you’ve been representing that as somehow something other then the economists opinion.

  31. Wrong again Allen! The court case cited a study by Dr. Judy Taylor of Texas A&M, who also concluded the state needed to pump in $3 billion a year more (in 2003 dollars) to bring the funding up to a 90% success rate. Dr. Taylor testified she was directed by Kent Grusendorf, Republican Chairman of the House Education Committee, to omit the $3 billion figure in press releases and the executive summary, as he thought people were going to focus in on that figure.

    You think I just make this stuff up, despite the fact I provide proof of what I’m saying, which you obviously don’t bother to read.

  32. Moving the goal posts when you get caught out Mike? No, I recall quite clearly the link you finally provided after having your arm twisted was to a decision by a Texas court in which the judge engaged the services of an economist to determine what the proper funding level would be to, in the opinion of a non-teacher(!), meet mandated levels of education.


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