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Research findings on the
Child Development Programmes
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Research effectiveness


Discusses various approaches to judging programme effectiveness, including professional experience of repeated successes, quasi-experimental research studies and randomised controlled trials (rcts). All approaches have their limitations. Research findings are often challenged by strong ‘political’ opposition to new paradigms which do not fit accepted thinking. The focus on rcts with their limited validity can block awareness of outcomes from more comprehensive multi-faceted studies. See further in Quantitative and qualitative research on the programme outcomes.

Thousand family study



Reviews the most important study undertaken by the Early Childhood Development Centre, on over 1,000 families in a randomised controlled trial. Discusses the intricacy of selecting health authorities, randomising health visitors and randomising families from their caseloads, to compare intervention and control samples. Intervention families each received two years of monthly support visits from health vsitors and three extensive annual assessments by research interviewers. The main findings are listed, concluding that the programme had been effective. See further in the brief article The thousand-family research study, abstracted from the full 112-page report

Child protection success



Although the Child Development Programme is not primarily aimed at the reduction of child abuse, it is an important subsidiary goal to enable parents to cope with the challenges of child-rearing by using methods that are not abusive. This study followed up 31,000 children whose parents had received programme visits in disadvantaged residential areas, across 24 health authorities involved in the CDP. Analyses of rates of physical abuse and placement on the Child Protection Register in those children, compared with rates in non-programme children in the same authorities, found a 50% reduction in physical abuse and a 40% reduction in placement on the register. See further in Child Protection: positive impact of the Child Development Programmes, abstracted from the full 44-page report.

The Belfast field studies



The importance of the Belfast studies, which involved many thousands of parents, is that the programme there served as a massive field test of the programme in ordinary circumstances rather than in the more controlled situation of a research study. In a collaboration between the Eastern Health and Social Services Board and the ECDC, a specially designed field monitor was used to gather information from all families within a large part of the city over a number of years. The sample included programme and non-programme families in the same areas and with the same age profiles. Health, dietary, development and other outcomes showed consistent evidence of programme effectiveness. See further in The Belfast studies of the Child Development Programme", abstracted from the full 81 page report.

    Evaluation of the new     PCEmP program



The first evaluation of the Parent and Child Empowerment Programme was undertaken recently in a Lancashire community facing considerable economic and social stress.

Programme visitors undertook before and after assessments of the first group of parents to complete the monthly home visiting programme. Among the highly positive findings in the 41 families with infant children was a considerable increase in the mothers’ community involvement, a 50% increase in library membership, a doubling in the number of mothers who sang nursery rhymes to their children, a major reduction in maternal depression, a near doubling in the quality of mothers’ dietary intakes and high levels of immunisation and clinical check-ups for the children.

It was hypothesised that the parental lifestyle and other changes would persist and strongly influence their children’s subsequent development as a result of the programme’s focus on empowerment, in which changes were initiated by the parents themselves in response to the visitors’ encouragement and the focused structuring of their home visits.

See further in First evaluation of the Parent and Child Empowerment Programme.

Others present a wide range of findings



These parent support programmes, one of which has existed for over 25 years, have produced a considerable volume of evidence on the levels of effectiveness within a range of studies undertaken in different areas. This review describes first some general findings about programme outcomes, as reported within many different health authorities. It then lists, with brief details, a number of independent studies on the programmes, a series of semi-independent studies and a series of studies undertaken by the ECDC itself in collaboration with some of the health authorities participating in the programmes. See further in The main research and evaluation studies undertaken on the CDP.

Monitoring children's health and development




This describes the development and features of a field instrument for monitoring the health and development of young children and their parenting environment, during the first four years of life. The article lists the main features of what is known as The Early Health and Development Monitor. It explains how the socio-educational environment is taken into account, and describes other aspects of what is a friendly and easily used instrument. All the information can be recorded on the two sides of a single card. It is available for use by any authority, health or otherwise, which is involved with services for parents and children in the early years. The use of the Monitor does not require involvement with the Child Development Programme. See further in An effective means of assessing young children's health and development.

Fuller documentation on the Monitor is also available.

    Main references and     key documents



This lists a selection of the more important references and key documents produced for the ECDC since the start of the Centre. See ECDC: main references and key documents.

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