Experiences from conception to age six have the most important influence of any time in the life

Socio-economic Status

Unraveling the relationship between socio-economic status and child and adolescent behavioural, cognitive and language development.


The primary objective of this project is to conduct a systematic, rigorous, and exhaustive  review of research on the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES; as measured by income, education, marital status and occupational prestige as composite¹ or discrete measures) and child and adolescent developmental outcomes (birth to 18 years of age). Four domains of child and adolescent development will be addressed, as follows:

Internalizing behavioural development: behaviours that are directed inwardly toward the individual and represent an over-controlled and inner-directed pattern of development.

Externalizing behavioural development: externalizing behaviour patterns that are directed outwardly toward the social environment and characterized by under-controlled and outer-directed patterns of development.

Cognitive and language development: changes in mental skills that occur with increasing maturity and experience (Sternberg, 1999).

Review Questions

(1) What is the state of knowledge on the key elements of SES?

(2) What are the underlying elements of SES, indicating whether or not SES (either as composite or discrete measure) is a proxy for other phenomena or underlying elements influencing children’s and adolescents’ development?

(3) What is the current understanding of the nature of the relationship between these phenomena or underlying elements and child and adolescent developmental outcomes, paying particular attention to different subgroups (e.g. children of immigrants, low-income families, lone parents, or Aboriginal families)?

(4) Does life course make some underlying elements of SES more salient than others at different periods of development, and how.

Progress to Date

Analyses are ongoing. For more information, please contact the Principal Investigator, Nicole Letourneau, at nicolel@unb.ca 


Letourneau, N., Duffett-Leger, L., Levac, L., Watson, B., & Young, C. (2010). Unravelling the relationship between socio-economic status and child and adolescent behavioural, cognitive and language development.  Final report, Human Resources and Skills Development Canda.