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Infant Cognitive Development and Stimulating Parenting Practices in Rural China

This study examines the prevalence of cognitive delay among infants and toddlers in rural China and its relationship with one of the potential sources of the observed delay: low levels of stimulating parenting practices (SPPs). Data were compiled from five distinct studies, resulting in a pooled sample of 4436 caregivers of 6–29-month-old infants. The sampling sites span five provinces in rural China. According to the data, on average, rates of delay are high—51 percent. The low rates of SPPs among our sample demonstrate that this may be one source of the high prevalence of delays. The results of the multivariate regression analysis reveal that reading books and singing songs are each significantly associated with an increase in infant cognitive score by 1.62 points (p = 0.003) and 2.00 points (p < 0.001), respectively. Telling stories to infants, however, is not significantly associated with infant cognitive scores. Our findings indicate that caregivers with different characteristics engage in various levels of stimulating practices and have infants with different rates of delay. Specifically, infants of better-educated mothers who have greater household assets are in families in which the caregivers provide more SPPs and have infants who score higher on the study’s cognitive abilities scales.