The Complex Interaction between Home Environment, Socioeconomic Status, Maternal IQ and Early Child Neurocognitive Development: A Multivariate Analysis of Data Collected in a Newborn Cohort Study

PLoS One. 2015 May 21;10(5):e0127052. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0127052. eCollection 2015.


Background: The relative role of socioeconomic status (SES), home environment and maternal intelligence, as factors affecting child cognitive development in early childhood is still unclear. The aim of this study is to analyze the association of SES, home environment and maternal IQ with child neurodevelopment at 18 months.

Methods: The data were collected prospectively in the PHIME study, a newborn cohort study carried out in Italy between 2007 and 2010. Maternal nonverbal abilities (IQ) were evaluated using the Standard Progressive Matrices, a version of the Raven's Progressive Matrices; a direct evaluation of the home environment was carried out with the AIRE instrument, designed using the HOME (Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment) model; the socioeconomic characteristics were evaluated using the SES index which takes into account parents occupation, type of employment, educational level, homeownership. The study outcome was child neurodevelopment evaluated at 18 months, with the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development Third Edition (BSID III). Linear regression analyses and mediation analyses were carried out to evaluate the association between the three exposures, and the scaled scores of the three main scales of BSID III (cognitive, language and motor scale), with adjustment for a wide range of potential explanatory variables.

Results: Data from 502 mother-child pairs were analyzed. Mediation analysis showed a relationship between SES and maternal IQ, with a complete mediation effect of home environment in affecting cognitive and language domains. A direct significant effect of maternal IQ on the BSID III motor development scale and the mediation effect of home environment were found.

Conclusions: Our results show that home environment was the variable with greater influence on neurodevelopment at 18 months. The observation of how parents and children interact in the home context is crucial to adequately evaluate early child development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Development*
  • Cognition*
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intelligence*
  • Italy
  • Language Development
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Motor Activity
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Public Health Surveillance
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors

Grant support

The study was supported by the European Union through its Sixth Framework Programme for RTD (contract PHIME no. FOOD-CT-2006-016253), and by grant No. 63/12 from the Institute for Maternal and Child Health—IRCCS Burlo Garofolo, Trieste, Italy. The European Union is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein, and the study reflects only the views of the authors. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.