Families serve as powerful economic engine

Studies show early home life affects children’s later success

Contact Karen Bogenschneider, 608-262-4070, kpbogens@wisc.edu

Madison, Wis.–Building a strong, skilled workforce is a top priority for Wisconsin and most other states. Yet one of the key elements in building that workforce is often overlooked, according to a UW-Extension family policy researcher.

“Studies show that families are the most important contributor to the development of productive and competent workers,” says Karen Bogenschneider, family policy specialist with UW-Extension and Rothermel Bascom Professor of Human Ecology at the UW-Madison.

Today’s knowledge-based economies call for education and social skills that researchers say are largely shaped by a child’s early family life or pre-school education. Through early experiences, children learn hard skills, such as the ability to think and solve problems, and soft skills, such as dependability, discipline, and how to work with others.

“In one 30-year study, researchers were able to predict which children would drop out of school with 77 percent accuracy by testing just the quality of care the child received for the first three and a half years of life,” says Bogenschneider. “Well before these children started school, researchers were able to predict the odds of becoming a school dropout 11 to 14 years later.”

Children’s early experiences proved to be powerful predictors of later development, especially when considered in combination with the surroundings they grew up in, later care, and personal relationships.

Bogenschneider says that UW-Extension programs in every Wisconsin county are designed to strengthen families through educational programs that have been tested and proven effective.

“Families are the cornerstone for raising responsible children who become caring, committed contributors in a strong democracy and competent workers in a sound economy,” she says.

Bogenschneider says that one of the ways UW-Extension lays the groundwork for tomorrow’s workforce is through the Raising a Thinking Child program. The program offers participating parents strategies to guide their children in developing social skills and problem-solving ability.

“Four- to seven-year-old children of parents in the program are better able to think of ways to solve a problem, anticipate the consequences of their actions, and cope with frustration when things don’t go their way,” says Bogenschneider.

These types of critical thinking skills will be essential for a competitive workforce in a global economy.

To learn more about the Raising a Thinking Child program and other ways that UW-Extension is working for Wisconsin families, contact your local county UW-Extension office.


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