Objective: This study assessed the sustained effects of Head Start REDI (Research-based, Developmentally Informed), a randomized controlled preschool preventive intervention, on children's developmental trajectories of social- emotional functioning into elementary school. Method: Twenty-five Head Start centers with 44 classrooms were randomly assigned to deliver Head Start REDI or Head Start as usual. Head Start REDI featured an integrated language-emergent literacy and social-emotional skills curriculum and enhanced support for positive teaching practices. The 356 4-year-old children (54% girls; 25% African American; 17% Latino; 70% living in poverty) in those centers and classrooms were followed for 5 years (from preschool through third grade; 91% retention rate). Each year, teachers rated multiple domains of social- emotional functioning. Person-oriented latent class growth models were used to identify the different developmental trajectories of social- emotional functioning that children followed. Results: Tests of proportions revealed that children who had been in the Head Start REDI intervention were statistically significantly more likely than children in the control condition to follow the most optimal developmental trajectories of social competence, aggressive- oppositional behavior, learning engagement, attention problems, student-teacher closeness, and peer rejection (odds ratio = 1.60 -1.93). Conclusions: These findings suggest that enriching Head Start with evidence-based curriculum components and teaching practices can have long-lasting benefits for children's social- emotional functioning. These findings elucidate how high-quality preschool experiences promote core competencies that are critical to the school success of children living in poverty.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health