A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Education Reforms and Students at Risk: A Review of the Current State of the Art - January 1994

Cumulative Resources

Differences in early childhood resources may lead to a widening achievement gap over time between children. Walberg and Tsai (1983) argue that early investments in child care have a "Matthew effect" -- initial advantages in educative and personal resources increase the likelihood that children will have the motivation and skills to invest in and profit from schooling, resulting in cumulative advantages over time.

In a longitudinal study of Hawaiian young people, "resilient" youth were found more likely to have fewer life stresses as well as more resources (e.g., healthy neonatal conditions' supportive relatives) than youth who developed serious learning and behavior problems (Werner and Smith, 1982). The cumulative effect of resources seemed to protect young people from succumbing to stress and, in some instances, appeared to make young people so resilient that exposure to one or two risk factors only toughened them. For example, young people who had suffered economic deprivation, but who had other assets that sustained their resiliency, rated higher on self-confidence, integration of impulses, and use of personal resources than a control group who had not suffered economic deprivation (p. 91). Personal resources may provide individuals with the means to overcome and to learn from hardships.

Rutter (1979) also observes that some young people are seemingly "invulnerable" to major life stresses because of assets in their environment that compensate for the risk factor. Similarly, Benson (1990) finds that "deficits are not destiny" -- abused children, for example, who have certain "assets" (e.g., positive school climate, extracurricular participation, church or community involvement) are much less likely to be involved in at-risk behavior than abused children who lack these assets (pp. 77-78).

Many educators point to the cumulative effects of resources to argue for early intervention programs. Campbell and Ramey (1989) report preschool intervention is more effective than school-age intervention at enhancing intellectual growth and improving student performance. Other research suggests preschool programs may have long-term positive effects on literacy, employment, and social behavior (Berrueta-Clement, Schweinhart, Barnett, Epstein, & Weikart, 1984). However, a "fade-out" effect may occur if successive grades fail to build upon preschool influences and address age-specific needs (see Chapters 8 and 9).

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