Only about 12 percent of children below the poverty line live with both parents…poor kids are three times as likely to live with smokers…only 40 percent are read to frequently.
Families and Parenting Behavior: Substantial research has documented the importance of family factors in a child’s development as well as differences in these supporting factors among different groups of children (Barton & Coley, 2007). One important factor is the number of parents in the home. Children growing up in single-parent families are more likely, on average, to experience a range of negative outcomes in school and later in life. In 2011, about 60 percent of all children lived with both of their married biological or adoptive parents or stepparents. Only about 12 percent of children below the poverty line, however, were in this category, compared with 70 percent of children in families with incomes at or above twice the poverty line. Reading to young children has been identified as a key factor in helping children acquire important literacy skills. Here again, however, we find large differences by family income groups. For the highest income group, 64 percent of children were read to every day in the past week by a family member, compared with only 40 percent in families below the poverty level. Children in two-parent families were also more likely to be read to.
Toxins: Exposure to toxins such as tobacco smoke and lead can lead to a wide range of health and developmental problems for children. Children’s exposure to tobacco smoke varies by poverty status. The percentage of poor children living in homes where someone smoked regularly was 10 percent in 2010. The percentage for the most affluent group of children was only 3 percent. The pattern is similar for exposure to lead. 21 percent of poor children between the ages of 1 and 5 had 2.5 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, compared to 10 percent of children above the poverty level.