Impact of an early childhood intervention on the home environment, and subsequent effects on child cognitive and emotional development : a secondary analysis
Article [Accepted Manuscript]
Is part ofPLoS ONE ; vol. 14, no. 7.
Publisher(s)Public library of science
The objective of this study was to use secondary data from the Preparing for Life (PFL) trial to test (1) the impact of a prenatal-to-age-five intervention targeting women from a disadvantaged Irish community on the quality of the home environment; (2) whether any identified changes in the home environment explain the positive effects of the PFL program on children’s cognitive and emotional development at school entry which have been identified in previous reports of the PFL trial (ES = .72 and .50, respectively). Pregnant women were randomized into a treatment (home visits, baby massage, and parenting program, n = 115) or control (n = 118) group (trial registration: ISRCTN04631728). The home environment was assessed at 6 months, 1½, and 3 years using the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (responsiveness, acceptance, organization, learning material, involvement, variety). Cognitive skills were assessed at 5 years using the British Ability Scales. Emotional problems were teacher-reported at 5 years using the Short Early Development Inventory. Latent growth modeling was used to model changes in the home environment, and mediation analyses to test whether those changes explained children outcomes. Compared to controls, treatment children were exposed to more stimulating environments in terms of learning material (B = -1.62, p = 0.036) and environmental variety (B = -1.58, p = 0.009) at 6 months, but these differences faded at 3 years. Treatment families were also more likely to accept suboptimal child behaviors without using punishment (acceptance score, B = 1.49, p = 0.048) and were more organized at 3 years (B = 1.08, p = 0.033). None of the changes mediated children’s outcomes. In conclusion, we found that the program positively impacted different home environment dimensions, but these changes did not account for improvements in children’s outcomes. Exploratory analyses suggest that the impact of improvements in the home environment on child outcomes may be limited to specific groups of children. Limitations of the study include the potential lack of generalizability to other populations, the inability to assess the individual treatment components, and sample size restrictions which precluded a moderated mediation analysis.