Family, Neuroscience and Academic Skills: Children’s Social Class Gaps

Current explanations of social class gaps in children’s early academic skills tend to focus on non-cognitive skills that more advantaged children acquire in the family. Accordingly, social class matters because the cultural resources more abundant in advantaged families cultivate children’s repertoires and tool kits, which allow them to more easily navigate social institutions, such as schools. Within these accounts, parenting practices matter for children’s academic success, but for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Alternatively, findings from current neuroscience research indicate that family context matters for children because it cultivates neural networks that assist in learning and the development of academic skills. That is, children’s exposure to particular parenting practices and stimulating home environments contribute to the growth in neurocognitive skills that affect later academic performance. We synthesize sociological and neuroscience accounts of developmental inequality by focusing on one such skill—fine motor skills—to illustrate how family context alters children’s early academic performance. Our findings support an interdisciplinary account of academic inequality and extend current accounts of the family’s role in the transmission of social inequality. Our results push sociological theory to incorporate more encompassing accounts of how and why social context and process matter for children’s development, and how the social and biological combine in the emergence of inequality.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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