Singapore

Study shows academic links to early childhood performance

An ongoing 10-year-old study that tracks mothers and their children from birth has found that the pre-academic performance of four-year-olds has a strong link to their performance in the early primary school years.

This preliminary finding, along with others on children's eating behaviours and mothers' mental health, was shared yesterday by researchers from the Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes (Gusto) study.

Gusto started in October 2008 to study how conditions in pregnancy and early childhood influence the health and development of women and their children.

More than 85 per cent of the 1,247 women and their families continue to take part in the study.

The children were tested on things such as memory, vocabulary and numeracy skills, as well as their impulse control at age four, with their school performance also tracked later on, said Associate Professor Chong Yap Seng, the founder and lead researcher for the study.

The aim is to target children who are at high risk of being poorly prepared for school and get parents to adapt to their learning style, he added.

Another finding was related to children's eating behaviour.

"We videotaped the children eating in the lab, and we found that if they ate fast, chewed less and the food spent less time in their mouth, they ate more overall," said Prof Chong, the executive director of the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

The Gusto study is a collaboration between the institute, KK Women's and Children's Hospital, National University Health System and the National University of Singapore.

Another result shared was that women with symptoms of possible depression were more likely to have babies with neurodevelopmental disorders like anxiety, depressive or disruptive behaviour disorders, said Dr Cornelia Chee, director at the Women's Emotional Health Service of the National University Hospital (NUH).

Gusto celebrated its 10th anniversary at the National Gallery Singapore yesterday, with President Halimah Yacob as the guest of honour.

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