Courtney Stevens, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Brain Development Lab of UO neuroscientist Helen J. Neville conducted an eight-week parent training programme, aimed at underprivileged families, and found that the coaching improved their children's behaviour and education significantly.
For the study, which was presented the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the researchers recruited 14 kids between 3 and 5 years and their parents. The children underwent brain scans before and after the research period.
The parents attended weekly 2.5-hour sessions in which they were coached on improved communication skills and strategies to use with their children to help control their behaviour.
At the end of testing, they were compared with results from a control group of 14 children who were tested and had brain scans at the beginning and end of the study period, but whose parents did not receive an intervention protocol.
The researchers found that the eight-week intervention reduced both the children's behavioural problems and levels of stress in their families.
Tests and brain scans also suggested improved language acquisition, memory and cognitive abilities.
"Our findings are important because they suggest that kids who are at high risk for school failure can be helped through these interventions. Even with these small numbers of children, the parent training appears very promising," Stevens said.
Neville suggested that catching children while they are young is the right time.
She said that targeting children from families with low socio-economic status makes sense because research in the United States, United Kingdom and several other countries has repeatedly shown a correlation between children's educational achievement and their parents' education and income levels.