TrygFonden's Centre for Child Research opens at Aarhus University

Language support for nursery-age children can reduce the risk of having to place them in special classes or institutions. This is the expected outcome of one of the research projects that will be conducted at TrygFonden’s Centre for Child Research. The official inauguration of the centre at Aarhus University's Department of Economics and Business takes place on 29 August.

2013.08.29 | Martin Hagelskjær Damsgaard, Karen Bøgedal

It is too early to assess a child’s language abilities when he/she is only at nursery-age from 0 – 3 years. Different children develop in different rates. These are the types of statements that one often hears when speaking of young children’s language development. But according to Professor and director of TrygFonden’s Centre for Child Research, Michael Rosholm, there is much greater diversity to be traced among nursery-age children.

 

- Research performed by members of TrygFonden’s Centre for Child Research has shown that the extent of the vocabularies of children as young as age 3 can vary enormously, depending on how and how much time their parents spend stimulating them. The gap proceeds to expand as they grow older, and at some point it will become impossible for the most disadvantaged children to keep up in school and, eventually, to keep up with society, says Michael Rosholm.

 

This project, led by Professor Dorthe Bleses from University of Southern Denmark’s Centre for Children’s Language, will be conducted in close collaboration with pedagogues from a number of nurseries. A crucial aspect will be to work out whether the approaches that have proven effective with kindergarten children from 3- 6 years can be applied to smaller children as well. The researchers anticipate that one the effects of early intervention will be that less children will need special education.

 

James J. Heckman, Nobel laureate and Professor at University of Chicago, is one of the international driving forces behind TrygFonden’s Centre for Child Research. He is among the world’s leading experts in measuring the impact of social interventions, and he sees great potential in early language stimulation.

 

- From research done in the U.S. we know that early interventions have a positive effect on whether the children will be ready for school in time, and it also makes children more susceptible to later interventions. We have documentation that the earlier we step in and invest in the child’s development, the larger the effect will be, both socially and economically. There is much ground to be gained for Denmark in this area, especially given the fact that there has been a lack of this type of research into social schemes, says James J. Heckman.

                                           

The project on early language stimulation is just one in nine main research projects taking place at TrygFonden’s newly established Centre for Child Research. The research projects are targeted children of different ages, at different stages of development and with different skills, from small children of nursery age to young people in higher secondary education and at the start of their working lives. However, all the projects have one thing in common: The overall goal is to test and generate evidence on the most effective ways of implementing preventive measures and to enhance the wellbeing of children and youth based on knowledge of what actually works.

 

Preventative resources can be more effectively employed

In Denmark we tend to be content with the extent of the welfare that we can achieve with the money allocated to the cause, but we fail to see how and where we may improve our efforts. And one thing is for sure: We will not be able to achieve our goals regarding, for instance, primary and lower secondary schools, young people receiving education, reading proficiency and diminishing the impact of social inheritance. These are all areas in which Denmark only achieves mediocre results on an international scale, even despite the fact that Denmark is one of the countries that invests the most money in initiatives and schemes for the welfare of children and young people.

 

This is one of the main reasons why TrygFonden has taken the initiative to establish the research centre, which, with a grant of DKK 60 million, is to lead the way in a hitherto neglected research area in Denmark. In addition to that, the researchers are in the process of applying for yet another DKK 40 million.

 

- If we are to get full value of the multiple billions that we, to the best of our intentions, invest annually in the field of well-being among children and youth, it requires first and foremost that politicians and practicians know how to select the initiatives that work. Right now it seems as though the preventative resources are being put to use blindly, and the inevitable consequence is that some of the most disadvantaged children and youth will be sidetracked. It is not okay that we, as a society, neglect to fulfil our responsibilities, both human and financial. I am convinced that the strong forces behind TrygFonden’s Centre for Child Research will come to contribute considerably to finally building the long sought for knowledge culture in the field of research into well-being among children and young people, says Jørgen Huno Rasmussen, who is Chairman of TrygFonden.

 

Michael Rosholm expects that in the long run the centre’s research will pave the way for future research-based initiatives within the field of social welfare. Among other things, the centre will initiate a collection of data on the participating children, which will continue until they finish school and reach adulthood.

 

- This elevates the perspective of our research, because it allows us to compare the effects of the various initiatives and to see how these individuals develop as adults; for instance, regarding their wages, education, children, work and general welfare, says Michael Rosholm.


Learn more about the nine main projects (in Danish)

For more information:

 

Michael Rosholm, Professor, Aarhus University

22 94 18 47, rom@asb.dk

 

Dorthe Bleses, Professor, University of Southern Denmark

60 11 33 46, bleses@sdu.dk

 

Karen Bøgedal, Head of Press Affairs, TrygFonden

30 56 34 32, kb@trygfonden.dk

 

 

About TrygFonden

TrygFonden smba (TryghedsGruppen smba, i.e. in the category of companies with limited responsibility) works to make Denmark a safer place to be. TrygFonden is initiator of a long line of non-profit projects that contribute to improving public health, welfare and an increased sense of safety among the inhabitants of Denmark. TrygFonden supports action-oriented, knowledge-based projects that are conducted in collaboration with leading experts and organisations in the fields in question. In 2013 TrygFonden divides DKK 550 million between hundreds of knowledge-based projects devoted to increasing safety both locally and nationally. TrygFonden is part of TryghedsGruppen, which provides the means for the non-profit activities. TryghedsGruppen creates value as majority shareholder of the insurance company Tryg through asset management and direct investments.

For more information about TrygFonden’s activities, go to:  www.trygfonden.dk

 

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