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Parenting, Scarcity and Violence: Theory and Evidence for Colombia

During early childhood, children develop cognitive and socioemotional skills that predict success in multiple socioeconomic dimensions. A large part of the development of these skills depends on the child’s context during the first years of life and, in particular, on the quality of parental care. Grounded on recent literature in psychology and behavioral economics, we discuss a theoretical framework for understanding why some children receive adequate care, while others do not. Within this framework, we identify a determinant of the quality of parenting that has not yet been explored in-depth: the availability of parents’ mental resources, which are depleted by the subjective feeling of scarcity and the stress generated by adversities. Using cross-sectional data from a household survey in Colombia and administrative data on crime and violence, we find that a greater subjective feeling of scarcity (β=0.45, IC95%:[0.082, 0.979]) and greater exposure to violence (β =0.09, IC90%:[0.004, 0.182]) are associated with a lower likelihood that parents engage in stimulating activities with their children. At the same time, the results show that receiving information on childrearing is correlated with better parental practices (β =-0.48, IC95%:[-0.822, -0.136]).

Jorge Cuartas, Arturo Harker y Andrés Moya
Palabras clave:
Economics of early childhood development, parenting, scarcity, violence, child neglect