A number of pollutants are suspected of being responsible for the increasing prevalence of allergies that affect children’s health, although there are other causes, too. For instance, scientists are investigating the possible link between the early introduction of certain foods and the risk of food allergies – an issue which the study of infants’ diet should help to resolve.
Elfe is enabling researchers to measure the impact of exposure to the media and new information technologies on children’s physical, intellectual and affective development. Although this is a very high-profile and contentious issue, data on media technologies in the home and how families use them are currently only available for older children, and seldom have a longitudinal dimension, even though this is the only way of measuring their impact.
The start of nursery school and the way preschoolers approach learning are being studied in relation to a large number of factors concerning their lives since birth, including family composition, living conditions, health, relations with siblings, childcare arrangements, the games they play, and the parents’ physical and cultural activities. By correlating all this information, researchers will be able to see which of these factors affect children’s cognitive development and social integration.
Children’s eating habits in their early years are key to their health and development. Elfe is studying these habits in terms of the impact of dietary intake and food socialization. Observations during the children’s first year centred on their mothers’ perinatal diet, breastfeeding motivations and practices, and different types of dietary diversification.
The aim here is to identify the risk factors for developmental disorders, be they psychological or neurological (e.g., impaired visual function, language and sleep disorders). It is therefore from this perspective that researchers will study the children’s motor, cognitive, social and emotional development, as well as their acquisition of language skills. Their objective will be to investigate the hypothesis that a major upheaval in a child’s life, such as a separation or an accident, can affect his or her psychomotor development.
Physical activity is key to good health and an important factor for child and adolescent development. In recent years, sport and leisure activities have changed dramatically. Elfe will help to gauge the impact of these changes on young people’s health, especially overweight and obesity.
There is still considerable academic inequality in France. By collating information about the Elfe families’ socioeconomic status, childcare arrangements and out-of-school activities, the area they live in, their cultural practices and the language spoken at home, relations with their child’s school and, of course, the child’s actual schooling, the Elfe study will be able to shed new light on this inequality, making it easier to tackle. The study will focus on key aspects of the children’s progress through school, including possible learning difficulties, educational attainment, and subject and career choices.
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Example of research
Allergies are not the only escalating health problem. Asthma and obesity are now the most widespread chronic diseases among young people. But why? This is what a painstaking examination of interactions between genetics and the environment will seek to explain.