The contributions of psychology to the development and evaluation of preschool-to-thirdgrade prevention programs are analyzed with an emphasis on poverty alleviation through implementation of effective services for a greater number of children. The need to alleviate poverty and increase economic success is high. Early childhood programs have been found to be an effective strategy for promoting educational success and economic well-being, but the availability of high quality programs that are aligned and integrated with schools across the learning continuum is limited. Psychology has made major contributions to knowledge and practice in (a) defining and evaluating educational enrichment and (b) understanding mechanisms of behavioral change. As an empirical illustration of these contributions for enhancing economic well-being, we report new midlife income data in the Child-Parent Centers, a preschool-to-third-grade program that integrates the two major contributions to improve life course outcomes. Based on a well-matched alternative-intervention design with high sample retention (86%; N = 1,329), findings indicate that participation was associated with a 25% increase in average annual income at age 34 years ($22,708 vs. $18,130; p < .01). Graduates were also more likely to be in the top income quartile (≥$27,500; 30.7% vs. 20.2%; p < .01). Most of the main effects were explained by cognitive, school, and family factors, though further corroboration is needed. Implications for strengthening the impacts of early childhood programs as an avenue for increasing well-being and reducing inequality emphasize redressing ecological barriers, improving continuity and alignment with other strategies, and implementing effectiveness elements widely.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Preparation of this article was supported in part by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant R01 HD034294), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Grant OPP1173152), the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund (Grant U411B110098), the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship Program, and the Doris Duke Charitable Trust Fellowship Program.
- Early childhood
- Longitudinal studies
- Mechanisms and mediators
- Poverty and economic well-being
- Preventive interventions