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Translating Science Into Policy

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

There is a widespread assumption that science has a role to play in advising policymakers who address complex social problems, including those affecting children, but many challenges prevent that from happening. In their article, Shonkoff and Bales (p. 17) describe an ongoing collaborative approach, developed by a consortium of investigators, to study the process of translating complex concepts in developmental science for state-level policymakers and the citizens who elect them. This approach has generated promising preliminary results, demonstrating that science can be translated into credible, accessible information that helps policymakers make better decisions. By cataloging lessons learned from this 7-year working collaboration among neuroscientists, developmental psychologists, pediatricians, economists, and communications researchers, the authors hope to spur academics in child development to focus more systematically on communicating their findings.

Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

What role do parents’ income and education play in children’s healthy development? Schofield et al. (p. 33) followed 500 teens over 20 years from early adolescence to their early 30s—including learning about their parents and their children. They find that parents’ emotional investments predicted adolescents’ prosocial characteristics and that the positive traits of the second-generation youths improved their later parenting as adults. Adolescents with these characteristics invested more time and resources in their young children and also experienced less family stress as adults. A less stressful family environment directly affected the development of the children the teens had later when they became adults. While teaching children the benefits of education and well-paying jobs is helpful, promoting traits like friendliness, responsibility, and emotional stability can also boost the likelihood that children will pursue an education and get well-paying jobs, as well as the likelihood that they’ll create family environments that support the next generation. The implications of this longitudinal study: Investing in character-development programs for young people before they become parents may benefit the next generation.

Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

Decades of research have demonstrated the importance of the resources in children’s homes and high-quality parent–child interaction in supporting healthy development. High-quality child care plays a similar, albeit less powerful, role. Watamura, Phillips, Morrissey, McCartney, and Bub (p. 48) used data from the large-scale, longitudinal NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, which followed children from birth through the middle school years. They examined the double jeopardy of children at ages 2, 3, and 4½ who come from more difficult home environments and have lower-quality child care. They find that these children have more social-emotional problems and that high-quality child care may compensate for home environments that are challenged by, for example, poverty and mothers’ depression. The study confirms the value of integrating early intervention strategies and policies across home and child-care environments.

Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

In the United States, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past three decades. Prior research has linked maternal employment to children’s body mass index (BMI). Morrissey, Dunifon, and Kalil (p. 66) sought to learn more about the reasons for this link, as well as the role played by mothers’ work schedules. With information from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, they looked at 900 children in grades 3, 5, and 6. Findings: Children’s BMI increased the longer their mothers were employed; that is, maternal employment had a cumulative influence on children’s BMI that, over time, could lead to an increase in the likelihood of overweight or obesity. The findings were strongest in fifth and sixth grades. Surprisingly, changes in children’s physical activity, time spent unsupervised, and time spent watching TV did not explain the link between maternal employment and children’s BMI. This study can guide efforts to support and educate working parents in providing nutritious meals despite busy schedules.

Previous research has found that the amount of time families spend eating meals together is linked to reductions in substance abuse, eating disorders, and unhealthy weight in children and adolescents. In their observational study, Fiese, Winter, and Botti (p. 133) looked at 200 families with children (ages 5–12) with persistent asthma to determine how they interacted during meals. Although mealtimes lasted on average only 18 minutes, the quality of social interactions during the meal was directly related to the children’s health, including lung functioning, asthma symptoms, and quality of life. Simply put, in families that spent mealtimes talking about the day’s events, showing genuine concern about children’s activities, and turning off electronic devices, children had better health. Families in which the primary caregiver had less education, minority families, and single-parent families experienced more disruptive action during mealtime and spent less time talking about the events of the day, leading to a more disorganized mealtime. This in turn was related to poorer health for the children in these families. By identifying ways to promote and improve children’s health and well-being through shared meals, the study can inform policy and practice.

Screen Lessons

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

Most children under age 6 watch TV every day, and many parents hope their young children will learn from educational programs. Richert, Robb, and Smith (p. 82) reviewed recent research on how and what young children learn from TV to find that they learn from programs when they have developed a social relationship with the on-screen characters. To facilitate this learning, parents of children under 2 who watch TV with their youngsters should do so actively, using the same techniques they use while reading books (although the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children under 2 not watch any TV, most American children under 2 spend about 2 hours a day watching TV). Parents of children from 3 to 6 who watch TV should help their youngsters understand the relation between what they are seeing on TV and the real world.

Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

Many teens work part-time during the school year, with many of them putting in more than 20 hours a week at their jobs. Is this good or bad for adolescents in terms of their academics, behavior, and psychological functioning? In a reanalysis of data collected in the late 1980s, Monahan, Lee, and Steinberg (p. 96) took a longitudinal look at almost 1,800 adolescents in 10th and 11th grades, evaluating them against a comparison group that was more closely matched with the working teens than in the original analysis. Even with the stringent matching technique used, the researchers found that working for more than 20 hours a week was associated with declines in school engagement and increases in problem behavior (such as running away from home, getting into fights, and damaging school property), with no change after the teens cut back their hours or stopped working. Working 20 hours or less a week was not associated with negative outcomes. The study has implications for how much teens work while in high school.

The fluid, global nature of the 21st century makes it important for young people to acquire skills to think strategically, allowing them to navigate their way toward achieving goals in complex real-world contexts. Larson and Angus (p. 277) interviewed more than 100 White, African American, and Latino high school students engaged in 11 arts and leadership programs that aim to build these types of skills. They find that the young people learned skills that help them anticipate scenarios and plan accordingly, showing that adolescents have the capacity—when they have the appropriate guidance and are supported by experienced professionals—to gain knowledge through an active process of thinking through the challenges in their work, then learning from outcomes. The findings can inform efforts to train those who work in such programs.

Helping Disadvantaged Families

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

Child FIRST is a comprehensive home-based intervention that targets very young, vulnerable children and their families to reduce social-emotional, behavioral, and learning problems, as well as abuse and neglect. Lowell, Carter, Godoy, Paulicin, and Briggs-Gowan (p. 193) provided the program to low-income, multiethnic/racial families with children (ages 6–36 months), then determined whether the children and families showed improvements a year later. Findings: Compared with a group of families that did not take part, children who participated in Child FIRST saw greater gains in language and fewer problems in social-emotional development. Mothers’ mental health improved and families’ access to a wide range of community services rose. Three years later, there were fewer referrals for child abuse and neglect. The study highlights the value of this type of program to at-risk communities.

New Hope is a comprehensive, 3-year, work-based, antipoverty program designed to increase parents’ employment and reduce poverty. McLoyd, Kaplan, Purtell, and Huston (p. 113) assessed the program’s impact on young people ages 9–19 five years after their parents left the program. New Hope had positive effects on the ways boys thought about their futures and on their employment experiences, especially for African American boys. Compared to boys in families who did not participate in the program, boys whose families took part were less pessimistic about their employment prospects and more involved in employment and career preparation, and they worked for longer periods during the school year. The study did not find comparable results for girls. The findings can inform both policy and practice, particularly for youths living in high-poverty areas plagued by high unemployment.

Preventing Violence, Aggression

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

Children at greatest risk for serious chronic violence pose a challenge to practitioners, policy makers, and scientists because of the high cost they impose on society and the difficulty finding effective ways to help. Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group (p. 331) examined the impact of a 10-year intervention (which involved almost 900 medium- to high-risk kindergarteners) on psychiatric disorders such as conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder across childhood. The program, called Fast Track, included parent training, helping children with social cognitive skills, reading tutoring, home visits, mentoring, and a universal classroom curriculum. Findings: Compared with children who did not take part in the program, children in Fast Track did better on a range of outcomes, even 2 years after the program ended—but this finding applied only to those at the highest initial risk. The study highlights the value of identifying and intervening in the lives of children at high risk of being chronically antisocial and living disordered lives.

Children starting middle school often find that physical aggression is seen as an appropriate response to dealing with conflict and that more of their peers engage in fighting. Farrell, Henry, Mays, and Schoeny (p. 146) studied more than 5,500 students at 37 U.S. middle schools at the start and end of sixth grade and at the end of seventh and eighth grades; the group was socioeconomically and ethnically diverse. The researchers find that parents have more influence on how their children think about fighting at the start of sixth grade than in subsequent school years. And girls are more strongly influenced by school norms than boys, but boys are more influenced by how strongly their parents support fighting. The authors identify ways parents can help their children be less susceptible to these influences, including providing clear messages that discourage fighting and support nonviolent ways to deal with peers, and being actively involved in their children’s daily lives.

Maltreated Children

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

Child maltreatment is a serious public health problem, especially for infants and toddlers. Research can be brought to bear on the problem by identifying known risk factors for child victimization and developmental processes that may help explain how these risk factors operate. To determine the extent to which mothers who were abused have children who are also victimized, Berlin, Appleyard, and Dodge (p. 162) interviewed almost 500 White, African American, and Hispanic mothers during their pregnancies (about 10% of the moms had been physically abused as children) and reviewed county records in the 2½ years after the moms gave birth. Mothers who had been physically abused were 19% more likely to abuse or neglect their children by age 2 than moms who had not been victimized (but moms who had been neglected were not more likely to abuse or neglect their children). This intergenerational continuity can be explained in part by mothers’ greater social isolation and aggressive tendencies toward other adults. The findings of this longitudinal study offer concrete steps for intervention efforts.

In a separate study, Thomas and Zimmer-Gembeck (p. 177) sought to determine whether a program usually used to reduce children’s behavior problems could reduce other family problems as well as maltreatment. Parent–Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an evidence-based program designed to decrease hostile parenting practices and children’s behavior problems, and improve positive parent–child communication and parents’ sensitivity. The researchers looked at 150 moms who were at risk of maltreating their 2- to 7-year-old children or who had maltreated them in the past; half took part in the program, while the other half were put on a waiting list. After 12 weeks, compared to the wait-listed moms, mothers who received PCIT were more positive with their children and less stressed, and their children were less likely to have problem behaviors. After 24 weeks (when families had completed the program), they did better in these areas, moms were more sensitive to their children’s behaviors and emotions, and their children were less likely to be referred to authorities due to suspected maltreatment. The study, which used a rigorous research design, can help policymakers decide how to distribute funds for intervention programs.

Family Interventions at Work

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

Brotman et al. (p. 258) developed a program called ParentCorps, a school-based intervention for families of prekindergarten students. To test the program, eight elementary schools in disadvantaged, urban communities were randomly assigned to ParentCorps or to a control group in which the children went to school as usual. Compared to families in the control group, families who took part in the program were more effective and responsive to their children, and their children (about 120 took part in the program) had fewer behavior problems in the classroom. The program was found to help families and children at varying levels of risk. The study highlights the value of publicly investing in a program that supports parents and children as they transition to school.

A separate study asked: Can a brief, tailored, family-centered intervention for at-risk families and children reduce the youths’ smoking, drinking, and use of drugs, as well as other problem behaviors, as they transition to middle school? Stormshak et al. (p. 209) took a longitudinal look at almost 600 students (representing an ethnically diverse group) in three urban middle schools and their families. Some of the students and their families took part in the Family Check-Up, a program designed to reduce risky behaviors and help the children adapt socially; the other students and families did not participate in the program. In families that took part, youngsters had lower rates of substance use and problem behaviors between sixth and eighth grades, compared with families who were not part of the program. Given the brevity of the program (it typically involves three meetings), the findings suggest that a school-based, family-centered approach may be a cost-effective way to reduce risky behaviors among middle school students.

Depression in Parents, Depression in Children

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

Children of depressed parents tend to have more emotional and behavior problems than children whose parents are not depressed. In their longitudinal study of about 225 parents and children ages 7–17, Garber, Ciesla, McCauley, Diamond, and Schloredt (p. 226) explored whether parents’ recovery from an episode of depression was associated with fewer problems in their children. They find a significant relation between parents’ and children’s depressive symptoms across time, suggesting that successfully treating depression in parents may benefit their children, too. The link between emotional distress, they also find, may go both ways, with changes in children’s symptoms of depression predicting changes in parents’ symptoms of depression. The study advances our understanding of factors within families that may affect adjustment and suggests possible interventions and policies to reduce mental health problems.

Children of Divorce

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

Children whose parents divorce are more likely to develop mental health problems. Some children develop effective coping strategies to manage the stress of divorce. To determine how children develop these strategies, Vélez, Wolchik, Tein, and Sandler (p. 244) used information from the evaluation of a program called New Beginnings, which is designed to promote children’s mental health after divorce. Their longitudinal study looked at 240 recently divorced mothers and their children ages 9–12. Moms who took part in the program had better relationships with their children and used more effective discipline than moms who just received books about helping children adjust to divorce. Improvements in mom–child relationships boosted children’s beliefs that they could cope 6 months and 6 years after the program, and children’s use of more active coping strategies 6 years after the program. The study can help those designing prevention and treatment programs for divorced families.

Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

Recent studies have found that bullying among children and teens is a common practice that involves more than physical aggression. To prevent or reduce bullying in schools, we need to understand what motivates bullies to act and who their likely targets might be. Guerra, Williams, and Sadek (p. 295) examined more than 2,500 elementary, middle, and high school students, looking at their self-esteem, beliefs that support bullying, and perceptions of school climate; in addition to doing surveys, they conducted focus groups. Among the findings: Bullies and victims share common characteristics, including low self-esteem. Many bullies start out as victims. Both bullies and victims are less likely than other children to believe that school is a good place to be, where rules are fair and teachers can be trusted. And as children learn that bullying is acceptable and internalize these standards, they are more likely to bully. The study has implications for antibullying programs.

Another study on bullying took a longitudinal look at an intervention in Finland. Kärnä, Voeten, Little, Poskiparta, Kaljonen, and Salmivalli (p. 311) evaluated the effectiveness of a new anti-bullying program there that targets individuals, classrooms, and the whole school. The study examined the evidence-based program based on its use in 39 Finnish schools where more than 4,000 students in grades 4–6 took part; in another 39 schools, students did not participate. The program views bullying as a group phenomenon and emphasizes bystanders’ role in maintaining or putting an end to it. After 9 months, the program had positive effects on self- and peer-reported victimization and on self-reported bullying. Students acted less in probullying ways, providing less assistance and reinforcement for the bullies, and they felt more capable of defending the victims of bullying. The intervention also increased students’ general well-being at school. Although the study was done in Finland, a fairly homogeneous society, the results can inform the development of school-based antibullying programs elsewhere.

School-Based Mentoring

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

School-based mentoring is growing rapidly in the United States, but few studies have examined it closely. Herrera, Grossman, Kauh, and McMaken (p. 346) tested whether the popular Big Brothers Big Sisters program benefits its young participants by following the lives of both mentored and nonmentored youths for 15 months. Their study involved more than 1,100 mostly minority and low-income students ages 9–16 in 10 U.S. cities. There was no evidence that the program had significant effects on youths’ classroom effort, problem behaviors, self-esteem, or social functioning with peers, parents, or teachers. But compared to their nonmentored peers, participants did experience modest academic benefits and were more likely to report having a “special adult” in their lives. However, impacts did not last into the following school year, when almost half the students no longer participated in the program. The findings suggest that the program model should be strengthened to sustain the positive benefits.

Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

Reynolds, Temple, White, Ou, and Robertson (p. 379) conducted a cost–benefit analysis of the Child-Parent Center Program, which provides services to 3- to 9-year-olds in public schools. Their study, which uses information collected longitudinally on the children who attended the program when they were 3 and 4, with follow-up at age 26 (and a comparative group who did not take part in the program), is the first economic analysis of adults in a sustained large-scale and publicly funded intervention. Findings: The program’s economic benefits in 2007 dollars exceeded costs, including increased earnings and tax revenues, averted costs related to crime, and savings for child welfare, special education, and grade retention. The preschool part showed the strongest economic benefits, with gains varying by child, program, and family group. Children at higher levels of risk experienced the highest economic benefits. By showing that sustained early childhood programs can contribute to the well-being of both individuals and society, the study can inform policy and practice.

A major component of President Obama’s education reform plan is increased funding for Head Start. Raver, Jones, Li-Grining, Zhai, Bub, and Pressler (p. 362), in a study called the Chicago School Readiness Project (CSRP), find that a multi-part intervention carried out in Head Start settings increases children’s readiness for school. The project enrolled low-income, ethnic minority 4-year-olds in CSRP for 1 year, helping them regulate their attention and impulsivity to make them better learners, and supporting their adjustment to school to improve their chances for success; a control group of children enrolled in Head Start did not take part in CSRP. The project also boosted children’s skills in vocabulary, letter naming, and math. By showing that young children’s socioemotional competence is key rather than peripheral to their opportunities to learn, the results have implications for both practice and policy.

Social and Emotional Learning

  1. Top of page
  2. Translating Science Into Policy
  3. Healthy Development: Role of Parents’ Income, Education
  4. Double Jeopardy: Lower-Quality Child Care and At-Risk Children
  5. Healthy Eating: Mothers’ Work and Family Mealtimes
  6. Screen Lessons
  7. Teens Who Work/Teens Who Think
  8. Helping Disadvantaged Families
  9. Preventing Violence, Aggression
  10. Maltreated Children
  11. Family Interventions at Work
  12. Depression in Parents, Depression in Children
  13. Children of Divorce
  14. Bullying: Motives, Targets, Prevention, Intervention
  15. School-Based Mentoring
  16. Preschool Programs’ Effects and Cost Effectiveness
  17. Social and Emotional Learning

Being successful in school requires a combination of social, emotional, and academic competencies, and schools must effectively address these aspects of development for the benefit of all students. In a meta-analysis, Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, and Schellinger (p. 405) reviewed the results of 213 school-based, universal social and emotional learning programs involving more than 270,000 K–12 students. Whether they are classroom-based or more comprehensive, the programs aim to promote students’ abilities to recognize and manage emotions, establish and maintain positive relationships, make responsible decisions, or handle interpersonal situations constructively. Students in these programs demonstrated significantly improved social and emotional skills, prosocial attitudes, positive social behaviors, and performance on academic achievement tests. In addition, students’ levels of conduct problems and emotional distress declined. The findings highlight the value of incorporating evidence-based programs of this type into standard educational practice.

Anne Bridgman