Parental Investment in Early Childhood: A Tunisian Regional Comparisons Study

Parental Investment in Early Childhood: A Tunisian Regional Comparisons Study

Hajali Dhouha (Department of Economics and Statistics, University of Monastir, Monastir, Tunisia)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJABE.2015100101
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This paper aims to assess and estimate parental investment in children in four activities: education, health, leisure and nurture. The author first analyzes constructed composite scores and observed similarity for parental investment in health and differences in the other activities but the investment level is little enough. The author next provides new empirical evidence to shed light on the relationship between the level of parental investment and characteristics of the child, the mother and the household. Using Poisson and Negative Binominal regression models on household micro-data, the author finds good investment level in health but weak in education and almost unawareness of leisure and recreation. The education is linked to mothers' attitude and the household lifestyle is slightly valuable for the Center-Eastern area and the capital city. On the contrary, nurture activity is not linked to the lifestyle and exhibit regional differences. Moreover, households in the East of the country are more investing then those in the west.
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1. Introduction

Children are citizens who enjoy their rights and are likely to enrich our communities by their presence. They are also future work force and expected leaders. When children have the possibility to fully blossom, it is the society as a whole that finally benefits. Future health and prosperity of the country depends mainly on today´s ability to advance the optimal development of children. It is the experience acquired in their early years that will influence their attitude most for the rest of their life through the development of their brains, learning ability, behavior and health (Mc Cain et al., 1999).

Unfortunately, in low income families, parents cannot afford to invest in the well-being of their children as much as they would like to do, but do they really invest enough within the frame of their capabilities? at least morally and emotionally such as discipline and recreation. In fact, the development quality of early childhood (3 to 5 years old) defines their behavior, their brain and involves their health and their well-being life. A positive and stimulating learning experience at an early age will contribute to build self-confidence as well as favorable attitude towards learning, exploration and successful dealing with problems. Actually, investing in learning at an early age means supporting learning later and paving the way for success at school and beyond (see the learning perspective of Skinner, 1957, as cited in Shaffer et al. 2002).

Although early childhood is the constructive phase of man's future behavior, empirical studies on parental investment at this age (3 to 5) are infrequent in the literature of human capital and household economics. Moreover, most of the existing works have been focused on various techniques for improving research and reviewing of both education and health systems as important factors but forget the effects of nurture and leisure on the child’s behave and his future well-being. Furthermore, a few numbers of empirical investigations develop parental investment separately in reading, health, leisure or nurture. We rely on that view and split up parental investment into four activities bearing in mind two facts; first, child investment practices emanate from the child development theory and the child development is a series of steps (Piaget's theory of stages of development) such as Emotional and psychological development (Erik Erikson (1902-1994), Kohlberg (1927-1987), Siegel (1984), Cortesa (1990), Cognitive development (Jean Piaget (1896-1980), Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), …), Physical (Arnold Gesell (1880-1961), Kurt Lewin(1890-1947), Language (Skinner, Chomsky (1928-), Vygotsky), Social (Erikson, Vygostky, Lewin …), Social play of Sara Smilansky (1922 -), Mildred Parten (1916-2009). So we think that the four activities are likely to summarize all sides of development of the child. Second, we think that for low income families, some activities do not call for pecuniary effort but at least they are moral and emotional such as nurture and recreation.

Using data from MICS 3 (Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey) realized by the Tunisian government in 2006, we study parental investment in early childhood and focus on two aims; first, we construct composite scores (unlike previous studies using allocated time by parents as proxy for different activities, see Leibowitz, 1977; LeFevre and Sénéchal, 2002; Eisenberg et al., 2004 ; Taveras et al., 2005; Price, 2008) associated with investment in the four main activities (namely; education, health care, nurture and leisure) to establish a regional and national comparisons study, and second, we estimate the relationship between characteristics of the child, the mother and the household and parental investment in each of these activities.

This research differs from previous studies in at least four aspects. First, differently to previous studies focusing solely on money or investment in education, we express parental investment in other activities than education and then break up it into four activities. The education activity has been also described in a set of tasks: reading books, telling story, naming things or counting and drawing. Second, we proceed by an instantaneous analysis of constructed scores for each activity and then through an empirical analysis using Poisson regression and Negative Binominal regression models. Third, we establish both regional and national comparative studies in the Tunisian framework. Four, we shed light on the association between the level of parental investment and characteristics of the child, the mother and the household.

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