Population Health

August 5, 2020

Early childhood intervention programs have long-term benefits

Image from the CDC of two kids engaged in an activity at schoolA decades-long study by the University of Colorado and the University of Washington has found that youth programs designed to prevent drug use and delinquency and support healthy development can reap lasting benefits not only for participants, but also for their future kids.

The research focuses on a program called Raising Healthy Children, which the UW’s Social Development Research Group monitored in several Seattle elementary schools in the 1980s. The program was among the first to test the idea that problem behaviors could be prevented with specialized training for teachers, parents and young children.

Previous studies have shown that by age 18 those who had gone through the program demonstrated better academic achievement than non-participants and were less likely to engage in violence, substance use or unsafe sex. By their 30s, they had gone further in school, tended to be better off financially, and scored better on mental health assessments.

Beginning in 2002, the researchers started following the first-born children of program participants via questionnaires for their teachers and parents. Those whose parents had participated in Raising Healthy Children had fewer developmental delays in the first five years of life, fewer behavior problems, fewer symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — or ADHD — and better cognitive, academic and emotional maturity in the classroom.

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