Understanding the Culture of Rural Parenting and Brain Development

Background: Between conception and age three, a child’s brain undergoes an impressive amount of change.  The brain doubles in size in its first year, and by three, it reaches 80% of its adult volume.  Despite increasing knowledge of this critical time in development, no formal institution exists that routinely educates all children between 0-3.  Therefore, the molding of a developing brain is dependent on the engagement and interactions of a parent or parents.  Most parents, however, especially those in the lowest socioeconomic or educational quartiles are not exposed to how simple strategies can maximize their baby’s brain development.  This is particularly true in rural impoverished areas where higher than national average teen pregnancy rates and lack of access to pediatricians makes parental education and skill building on developmental outcomes exceedingly rare.

Project Lead: Jeanne Koehler

OPSP Team Members: Sameer Vohra

Collaborators: Southern Illinois Healthcare, SIU Medicine Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development

Goals: To identify solutions aligned with community needs, we have engaged in a qualitative research process including parents, grandparents, and caregivers in rural Illinois. Our goals are to learn from their lived experience, explore perceptions around the topic of baby brain development, and identify the resources used to learn about baby brain development. Through listening to caregivers, we plan to incorporate their voice, their perceptions, and their values to design care and education solutions targeted at enhancing baby brain development.

Our partners at Southern Illinois Health Care and CRHSSD have identified interested caregivers in Harrisburg, Vienna, Pickneyville, Dongola, and Eldorado, Illinois.

Findings: Pending

Presentations: The Thirteenth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, May 19, 2017

Publications: Pending