Low-income children who attended high-quality early education programs exhibit fewer behavior problems as 7- to 11-year-olds, Science Daily reports. The new study, published in the journal Child Development, found the results most pronounced for boys and African-American children. It is one of the few to examine the long-term impact of programs on low-income children’s behavior.
“This study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting the need for policy and programmatic efforts to increase low-income families’ access to high-quality early care and education,” Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and leader of the study, told Science Daily.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Boston College and several other universities looked at 350 children in Boston, Chicago and San Antonio, first as preschoolers and then as older children. “Children who attended more responsive, stimulating, and well-structured settings during preschool had fewer externalizing behavior problems (such as being aggressive and breaking rules) in middle childhood, according to the study,” Science Daily reports.
The children participated in the longitudinal Three-City Study, which followed low-income families and children after the reform of welfare in 1996. The children were in a variety of early education and care settings – center-based programs, Head Start and family child care.
“Beyond a few model early intervention programs and a handful of short-term longitudinal studies, our knowledge is limited concerning the implications of child care experiences for low-income children’s later development,” Votruba-Drzal told Science Daily. “This study strengthens our understanding of how the varying quality of child care experiences available to children in low-income families shapes children’s development into middle childhood.”