Stress of applying for welfare hurts kids

June 21, 2011 at 1:54 AM
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COLUMBIA, Mo., June 21 (UPI) -- Applying for some U.S. welfare programs can create stress on families, and that can have a negative effect on young children, researchers say.

Colleen Heflin of the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri and Sharon Kukla-Acevado of Central Michigan University studied the cognitive scores of young children whose families receive assistance from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Heflin found the cognitive scores of 3-year-old children whose families were on temporary assistance were much lower than those of children whose families instead received social programs based in the tax system, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.

"Our findings suggest that the way these assistance programs are structured could have negative effects on child outcomes," Heflin said in a statement. "While temporary assistance traditionally has been the main social program to offer financial support to low-income households with children, current program requirements may create pressures that conflict with the objective of improving child outcomes."

Families receiving temporary assistance must comply with requirements ranging from drug testing to attending job development classes to accepting minimum wage jobs that require single mothers to be away from their families during evenings and weekends, the study said.

The study was published in Children and Youth Services Review.

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