Evaluation of Midlife Educational Attainment among Attendees of a Comprehensive Early Childhood Education Program in the Context of Early Adverse Childhood Experiences

Alison Giovanelli, Christina F. Mondi, Arthur J. Reynolds, Suh Ruu Ou

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Abstract

Importance: Educational attainment is a key social determinant of health and can be particularly consequential for racial and ethnic minority populations. Although the consequences of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are well established, there is little research on protective factors and policy-relevant strategies to mitigate ACE-related inequities. Objective: To examine associations between early ACEs, comprehensive early intervention, and midlife educational attainment in a cohort of predominantly Black participants. Design, Setting, and Participants: The Chicago Longitudinal Study is a prospective cohort study of Black and Latinx children from Chicago, Illinois. The intervention group included 989 children entering the Child-Parent Center (CPC) preschool Early Childhood Education (ECE) program in the 1980s. The comparison group comprised 550 children participating in usual early childhood services. All participants were followed up for 30 years after the end of the intervention. Analyses were conducted from July 1 to September 1, 2022. Intervention: Attendance at the CPC preschool ECE program. Main Outcomes and Measures: A standard battery of early childhood ACEs (conventional ACEs), a set of early childhood ACEs more commonly associated with high-poverty contexts (expanded ACEs), and educational attainment at 35 years of age were measured from self-report and administrative records. Results: The original Chicago Longitudinal Study sample comprised 1539 participants (1430 Black participants [92.9%]; 774 female participants [50.3%]). Data on educational attainment and ACEs were available for 1083 of 1467 living participants (73.8%). Participants in the present study (1013 Black participants [93.5%]; 594 female participants [54.9%]) were a mean (SD) age of 35.1 (0.3) years at completion of the midlife survey. For the comparison group but not the CPC intervention group, having 1 or more conventional or expanded ACEs in early childhood was associated with fewer years of education (β = -0.64; 95% CI, -1.02 to -0.26), reduced likelihood of attaining a bachelor's degree or higher (odds ratio, 0.26; 95% CI, 0.09-0.70), and reduced likelihood of attaining an associate's degree or higher (odds ratio, 0.26; 95% CI, 0.11-0.62) after adjusting for covariates. Moderation analyses indicated that CPC participants with either conventional or expanded ACEs in early childhood attained a bachelor's degree or higher and an associate's degree or higher at rates similar to CPC participants without early ACEs (15.4% vs 13.6% for bachelor's degree or higher; 22.4% vs 19.9% for associate's degree or higher). Conversely, comparison group participants with early ACEs had significantly lower rates of educational attainment than their counterparts without ACEs (3.7% vs 12.1% for bachelor's degree or higher; 5.6% vs 17.1% for associate's degree or higher). Conclusions: This cohort study suggests that early ACEs were associated with reduced educational attainment for the comparison group but not for the group participating in the CPC comprehensive early intervention. These results build on research suggesting that youths at higher risk can benefit most from intervention and support ECE as a tool for reducing ACE-related disparities..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E2319372
JournalJAMA Network Open
Volume6
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 22 2023

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