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Early Development and Family Life in Rural America

Vernon-Feagans, L., & Swingler, M. M.

From the abstract: "Young children growing up in rural America today face a number of challenges. Their parents have less income than urban families and less access to higher education and other important resources. On the other hand, young children in rural families often have access to extended family, live in single-family homes, and experience less random violent crime than children who live in urban communities. This chapter reviews the literature on rural families with young children and presents data from a representative sample of rural children (Family Life Project; FLP) to describe the lives of these families and their children from birth into elementary school. Results from the FLP suggest that parenting is particularly important in rural America, and that good parenting is a key mediator of the relationship between poverty indicators and children’s development. For example, we find that father language during early childhood is important for the prediction of language and school achievement for rural children in this sample. Household chaos is negatively related to positive child outcomes in development, although this also seems to be mediated through parenting. Interestingly, African American and non-African American FLP children come into elementary school above the national average on language and achievement tests, but both groups begin to fall behind in later elementary school. Good instruction in school does appear to help all children in language and literacy, but it especially helps children who enter school with lower skills."


Vernon-Feagans, L., & Swingler, M. M. (2020). Early development and family life in rural America. In J. Glick, S. McHale, & V. King (Eds.), Rural families and communities in the United States (pp. 201-235.). Springer.




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