Family Influence Affirmed In Early Childhood Study

BOSTON--Even lots of child care by non-family members does not diminish the profound influences of family on young children, researchers have found.

Working for the federal Institute of Child Health and Human Development, researchers followed about 1,300 newborns at 10 sites over seven years. By age 6 months, most were in child care with someone other than a parent--a relative, home provider, day care center. Some of the findings were summarized yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.

The researchers measured the quality of family environment based on such factors as income, a mother's education, how sensitively the mother handles her child's needs and how well she plays with her child.

High scores in those areas predicted good outcomes in children more strongly than the quality of care by someone else. Such outcomes at ages 2 and 3 included mental and language skills, school readiness and positive social behavior.

In a finding that surprised some researchers, the relationship between the family factors and outcomes in children stays the same whether the children spend less than 10 hours or more than 30 hours weekly in out-of-family child care. When both family and child care appear to influence outcomes in children, the estimated impact of family is at least twice as great as the child care influences.

The project's findings are similar to earlier research on the impact of preschool, which children usually attend at ages 3 and 4.

"I find it very reassuring for parents who work," said Sarah L. Friedman, scientific coordinator of the federal project. "It means what parents believe and what parents do and the quality of the family environment make a difference."

Psychologist Margaret Burchinal, who analyzes statistics for the federal project, cautioned that the research also underscores the value of good child care. "It's not as important as the home, but it is important," she said.

Addenda

* CLEVELAND--About 40 Ku Klux Klan members rallied in hooded robes and gave racist speeches for 80 minutes outside a downtown court building a few blocks from a black family expo and hours before the Cleveland Browns first home game since 1995. They were outnumbered by about 300 counter-demonstrators, who chanted slogans and held up anti-Klan signs from their own fenced-in protest area, and 600 police officers, who reported no arrests.

* HANOVER, N.H.--A Hawaiian luau at Dartmouth College was canceled after students complained it was culturally insensitive. The party was to have been sponsored by Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity and Delta Delta Delta sorority. Last year, more than 400 Dartmouth students staged a peaceful protest against a fraternity-sorority sponsored "ghetto" party in which students were encouraged to dress as inner-city black people.

* ANDERSON, S.C.--Shannon Faulkner, who fought a legal battle to open the all-male military academy The Citadel to women, has graduated from a college 200 miles across the state. She earned a bachelor's degree in secondary education of English this month from Anderson College, one of two schools she attended after dropping out of The Citadel after six days.

* NEW YORK--The FBI is investigating allegations that a guard at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., cursed and assaulted Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the imprisoned Egyptian cleric whose followers blew up the World Trade Center, officials said. The blind sheik bumped his head and bruised his arm when he allegedly was knocked off a toilet by a prison lieutenant who entered his cell early Aug. 8.