Early Head Start (EHS)

Note: The EHS program was not responsive to the CEBC's inquiry. The following information was obtained from publicly available sources.

Scientific Rating:
3
Promising Research Evidence
See scale of 1-5
Child Welfare System Relevance Level:
Medium
See descriptions of 3 levels

About This Program

Early Head Start (EHS) has been rated by the CEBC in the area of: Home Visiting Programs for Child Well-Being.

Target Population: Not Specified

Brief Description

Early Head Start (EHS) is a federally funded early childhood development program aimed at low-income families. Children and families enrolled in center-based programs receive comprehensive child development services in a center-based setting, supplemented with home visits by the child's teacher and other EHS staff. In home-based settings, children and their families are supported through weekly home visits and bi-monthly group socialization experiences. EHS also serves children through locally designed family child care options, in which certified child care providers care for children in their homes. Services include: early education both in and out of the home; parenting education; comprehensive health and mental health services for mothers and children; nutrition education; and family support services.

Education and Training Resources

Publicly available information indicates there is some training available for this program.
See contact info below.

Training Contact:
  • Laura Annuziata, Senior Training Specialist
    phone: (202) 638-1144
Training is obtained:

The Early Head Start National Resource Center at Zero to Three provides on-line information for grantees regarding implementation of the program.

Management Organizations wishing to implement and Early Head Start Program must obtain a grant from their regional Early Head Start Office.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

This program is rated a "3 - Promising Research Evidence" on the Scientific Rating Scale based on the published, peer-reviewed research available. The practice must have at least one study utilizing some form of control (e.g., untreated group, placebo group, matched wait list study) establishing the practice's benefit over the placebo, or found it to be comparable to or better than an appropriate comparison practice. Please see the Scientific Rating Scale for more information.

Child Welfare Outcomes: Safety and Child/Family Well-Being

Show relevant research...

Roggman, L. A., Boyce, L. K., Cook, G. A., Christiansen, K., & Jones, D. (2004). Playing with Daddy: Social toy play, Early Head Start, and developmental outcomes. Fathering, 2(1), 83-108.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 74 families

Population:

  • Age — Children: 14-36 months, Parents: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: Not specified; Parents: 97% White
  • Gender — Children: Not specified, Parents: 100% Male
  • Status — Participants were low-income families eligible for Head Start.

Location/Institution: Rural Utah

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
Note: This sample is a subset of the National Sample used in Love et al. (2005). Participants in this study were fathers of families who had been randomly assigned to either the Early Head Start (EHS) program or to a control group. Parent-toddler social toy play was coded on rating scale designed for this study. The scale rated complexity of shared toy interactions on a scale of 1 to 7, with lower scores indicating few verbal or toy-related interactions during play and higher scores indicating more complex sequences in which there is more continuous conversation and sharing. Researchers also coded parent supportiveness of play, parent sensitivity, cognitive stimulation and positive regard for the child. The child's cognitive development was assessed at 14, 24, and 36 months using age-appropriate items on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID-II). The child's emotional regulation was measured with the Behavior Rating Scales of the BSID-II. The father's psychosocial well-being was measured with the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and the Parenting Stress Index. Researchers also assessed family conflict with the Dyadic Adjustment Scale. Results showed that EHS father engaged in more complex play at 24 months. Greater complexity of father-toddler social play predicted better cognitive and social outcomes for children, and this correlation was stronger in the EHS group. Statistical analysis showed that depression was correlated with lower play scores and that participation in the EHS reduced the influence of this factor. Limitations include selection bias, generalizability due to gender and ethnicity, and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Love, J. M., Kisker, E. E., Ross, C., Raikes, H., Constantine, J., Boller, K.,...Vogel, C. (2005). The effectiveness of Early Head Start for 3-year-old children and their parents: Lessons for policy and programs. Developmental Psychology, 41(6), 885-901.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 3,001 families

Population:

  • Age — Children: 3 years, Parents: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: Not specified; Parents: 37% White, 34% African American, 24% Hispanic, and 5% Other
  • Gender — Children: 51% Male and 49% Female, Parents: 99%
  • Status — Participants were families eligible to enroll in Head Start.

Location/Institution: National

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
Families were recruited using normal procedures by 17 Early Head Start (EHS) Programs in all regions of the country. Families were then randomly assigned to EHS or to a control group who received no EHS services, but had access to other community services. Children's cognitive and language development was measured by the Mental Development Index (MDI) and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPV-III). Social and emotional development was measured by the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and an observation of parent-child interaction in a play task. Child health was evaluated using parent responses to the National Health Interview Survey. Parenting measures included the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME), which includes assessments of parental supportiveness, parent detachment, reading with children, and physical punishment. Analyses showed that, by 3 years of age, EHS children performed better in cognitive and language development, showed higher engagement with the parent in the play activity and more sustained attention than did controls. Parents in the EHS programs were more emotionally supportive, provided more learning and language opportunities, read to their children more and spanked less. The strongest effects were found for those programs that provided a mix of home-visiting and center-based services. Limitations include generalizability due to gender, reliability of self-reported measures and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Chazan‐Cohen, R., Ayoub, C., Pan, B. A., Roggman, L., Raikes, H., McKelvey, L.,...Hart, A. (2007). It takes time: Impacts of Early Head Start that lead to reductions in maternal depression two years later. Infant Mental Health Journal, 28(2), 151-170.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 3,000 families

Population:

  • Age — Children: 5 years, Parents: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: Not specified; Parents: 37% White, 34% African American, 24% Hispanic, and 5% Other
  • Gender — Children: 51% Male and 49% Female, Parents: 99%
  • Status — Participants were families eligible to enroll in Head Start.

Location/Institution: National

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
Note: This study uses the same sample as the Love et al. (2005) study. Families were randomly assigned to be enrolled in and Early Head Start (EHS) program or to a control group. Maternal depression was assessed at the beginning of the study, when children were between 14 and 36 months old, using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). They were reassessed at 14 months, 36 months, and when their child entered kindergarten. Children's cognitive and language development was measured by the Mental Development Index (MDI) and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPV-III). Social and emotional development was measured by the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and an observation of parent-child interaction in a play task. Child health was evaluated using parent responses to the National Health Interview Survey. Parenting measures included the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME), which includes assessments of parental support, parent detachment, reading with children and physical punishment. Family well-being was measured at ages 2 and 3 using two subscale from the Parenting Stress Index. Analysis showed that a number of factors affected by attending an EHS program had a delayed effect in reducing maternal depression for those families. The most important family mediators seemed to be reduction in parental distress and reduction in spanking. The major child mediators were reduction in aggressive behavior and higher cognitive development. Limitations include generalizability due to gender, reliability of self-reported measures, and small sample size due to attrition, and missing data.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 2 years.

Ayoub, C., O’Connor, E., Rappolt-Schlictmann, G., Vallotton, C., Raikes, H., & Chazan-Cohen, R. (2009). Cognitive skill performance among young children living in poverty: Risk, change, and the promotive effects of Early Head Start. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 24, 289-305.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 2,764

Population:

  • Age — Children:1-3 years, Parents: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: 43% Caucasian, 34% African American, and 23% Hispanic; Parents: Not specified
  • Gender — Children: 51% Male and 49% Female; Parents: Not specified
  • Status — Participants were mothers and toddlers eligible to enroll in Head Start.

Location/Institution: 17 Early Head Start (EHS) program sites in 16 states across the United States

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The study used the same sample as Love et al. (2005). The present study examined associations between risk factors and the protective and/or promotive effects of Early Head Start (EHS) on children’s cognitive skill performance compared to a national sample. Data were collected when the child was approximately 14, 24, and 36 months of age. Measures used included the Mental Development Index subscale of the Bayley Scale of Infant Development-II (BSID-II), the emotionality scale of the Buss and Plomin Emotionality, Adaptability, and Sociability Inventory (EASI-II), and the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME). Results indicated that children who were enrolled in EHS had higher cognitive skill scores at three years of age than their peers who were not in EHS. Limitations include EHS program effects may be underestimated and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Green , B. L., Ayoub, C., Bartlett, J. D., Von Ende, A., Furrer, C., Chazan-Cohen, R., … Klevens, J. (2014). The effect of Early Head Start on child welfare system involvement: A first look at longitudinal child maltreatment outcomes. Children and Youth Services Review, 42, 127-135.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 1,247

Population:

  • Age — Children: 11.6-14.3 years, Parents: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Parents: 45% Caucasian, 19% African American, 31% Hispanic, and 4.3% Other; Children: Not specified
  • Gender — Children: 51% Male and 49% Female, Parents: 99% Female
  • Status — Participants were mothers and toddlers eligible to enroll in Head Start.

Location/Institution: 7 Early Head Start program sites in 6 states across the United States

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The study used a portion of the sample from the Love et al. (2005). The current study used administrative data from state child welfare agencies to examine the impact of Early Head Start (EHS) on documented abuse and neglect among children from seven of the original seventeen programs in the national EHS randomized controlled trial. Measures used included the Mental Development Index subscale of the Bayley Scale of Infant Development-II (BSID-II), the emotionality scale of the Buss and Plomin Emotionality, Adaptability, and Sociability Inventory (EASI-II), and the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME). Results indicated that children in EHS had significantly fewer child welfare encounters between the ages of five and nine years than did children in the control group, and that EHS slowed the rate of subsequent encounters. Additionally, compared to children in the control group, children in EHS were less likely to have a substantiated report of physical or sexual abuse, but more likely to have a substantiated report of neglect. Limitations include possible missing data, sample size and attrition.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 10 years.

References

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2002, June). Making a difference in the lives of infants and toddlers and their families: The impacts of Early Head Start. Executive Summary. Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/impacts_execsum.pdf

Fenichel, E., & Mann, T. L. (2001). Early Head Start for low-income families with infants and toddlers. The Future of Children, 11(1), 134-141.

Contact Information

Agency/Affiliation: Early Head Start National Resource Center @ Zero to Three
Website: www.zerotothree.org/policy-and-advocacy/early-head-start
Email:
Phone: (202) 638-0581

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: September 2016

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: April 2008

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: April 2008