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Citation:Reynolds, A. J. & Robertson, D. L. (2003). School-based early intervention and later child maltreatment in the Chicago Longitudinal Study. Child Development, 74(1), 3-26.

Annotation:
The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of participation in the Child-Parent Centers (CPC) on the incidence of later child abuse and neglect. The CPCs provide comprehensive child development and family support services to children from ages 3 to 9 in high-poverty areas. Families could participate during preschool, at school age, or both (extended program participation). Results are analyzed in terms of three hypotheses of how comprehensive programs could reduce child maltreatment: 1) the family support hypothesis; 2) the school support hypothesis; and 3) the cognitive advantage hypothesis. Results indicate that after adjusting for preprogram maltreatment and background factors, participants had significantly lower rates of maltreatment by age 17 than children who had participated in alternative kindergarten interventions. Most of the effects on maltreatment came at age 10 and up. The length of intervention provided protection against maltreatment, where longer participation yielded benefits beyond less extensive participation. Program-related reductions in school mobility also contributed to positive effects. The results lent support to each of the three hypothesized mechanisms by which program participation is associated with later maltreatment (the family support hypothesis, the school support hypothesis and the cognitive advantage hypothesis). It was not clear which aspects of parent involvement led to reduction in maltreatment, more research is needed. Measures of maltreatment (child abuse and neglect) were substantiated referrals to child protective services and to the juvenile court from ages 4 to 17. Subjects included 1,408 low-income minority children (African American and Hispanic). The comparison group matched the program group on age, participation in government programs, and family poverty. Authors remind us that their measures of maltreatment (substantiated reports from child protective services and from juvenile courts) are subject to reporting bias and that may reduce reliability. Authors conclude that comprehensive early childhood programs with intensive parent involvement can help reduce child maltreatment even though preventing child maltreatment is not an explicit program goal. They also propose that some effects of early interventions increase rather than decrease over time. These findings generalize more to early childhood programs that provide comprehensive services than programs with limited services. Some members of the control group participated in Head Start (as opposed to intervention), and this may have influenced results. This sample was high-poverty, urban, and majority African American. Findings may not extend to other populations.

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