Preparing for Life at Age 9: Assessing the Continuity or Fade-out of Effects

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Dr Orla Doyle and the Preparing For Life Evaluation Team

UCD School of Economics and UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy

The Preparing  For Life (PFL) study examines the impact of early and continuous investment in parenting – from pregnancy until age five – on the academic outcomes and skills of children at age 9. The results suggest that PFL continues to have a sizeable effect on children’s achievement tests approximately 5 years after the families have completed the programme. Evidence from the randomised controlled trial of the PFL programme shows that the children whose parents received intensive parenting supports achieved favourable outcomes across a number of key areas such as: concentration, reasoning and problem solving. The children also performed well in standardised school achievement tests of reading and math. In particular, the children whose parents received the PFL parenting supports have IQ points which are 8 points higher than the control group who did not receive the parenting supports. The size of this difference is equivalent to reducing socioeconomic inequalities by about a half.  However, the significant effects observed for children’s socio-emotional development at age 4, are no longer present at age 9. As PFL children are now spending a greater proportion of their day outside the home environment, more policy supports targeting the school environment are required to bolster children’s development in these areas. The findings from this study supports the theory of skill formation – the programme gave them the basic cognitive tools and now the children are using these tools to master the more complicated tasks which school demands. If these impacts are sustained, they are likely to have important consequences for their success in school and beyond, particularly for their educational and employment opportunities.

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