The Role of Siblings in the Development of Young Children in Migrant and Seasonal Farm Worker Families
There are almost 2 million migrant and seasonal farm workers (MSFWs) in the United States and when the workers' family members are included, the farm working community totals 3 to 5 million people (Colt et al., 2001; U.S. Department of Labor, 2000). To date, the MSFW population has been largely unstudied. The purpose of this study was to investigate how siblings relate to and influence the development of preschoolers in migrant and seasonal farm worker families. Theories such as the confluence model and the resource dilution theory posit why children in larger families tend to achieve less in multiple domains such as language, literacy, and cognitive ability. However, these models have not been applied to the MSFW population, which is distinctive from the mainstream population and other Latino populations in the United States. Data were collected from 229 direct child assessments in Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Centers in Florida and 332 interviews with parents. Results show the number of siblings, particularly older siblings, was significantly related to young children's increased English language skills. Furthermore, siblings' English language skills appeared to have a stronger relationship with preschoolers' English language skills above and beyond parents' English language skills. However, the number of siblings, whether older or younger, did not have a negative relationship with children's development in cognitive, social, general language, or pre-writing skills. Therefore, siblings may play a particularly important role in helping young children from MSFW families learn English but their relationship to other developmental domains is still unclear. Findings indicate that models of how siblings influence child development used for the mainstream may not be applicable to this largely Latino, immigrant population. Limitations and future directions for research with MSFW families are discussed.
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