1. Long-Term Findings: Ten-Year Follow-up Outcomes
“Investing in Our Future: An Effective, Affordable, and Cost-Saving Prevention Project for Young Children.”
In 2007-08, we gathered follow-up data on approximately 600 youth and their parents when the youth were 18 years of age, 10 years after ending their program involvement.
WHAT WE FOUND AT GRADE 12
Youth and parents from the BBBF project neighbourhoods showed statistically significant positive outcomes on the following measures relative to youth and parents from the comparison neighbourhoods.
- less use of special education services
- higher average high school grades
- more frequent regular physical exercise
- less criminal property offences
- less perceived deviance in the neighborhood (e.g., drug use, violence, theft)
- greater sense of neighborhood cohesion
- lower rate of clinical depression
- less frequent alcohol use
- fewer smokers in the home other than the parent (proxy for second-hand smoke)
- By Gr 12 the Government costs of providing Better Beginnings to children and their families for 4 years compared to the difference between the project and comparison sites costs of providing government services showed the Government gained nearly $7,500 per family on its investment in the 3 older child sites. This amounts to a $2.50 return on every $1 invested by the Government.
2. Medium-Term Findings: Six-Year Follow-up Outcomes
This report focuses on the findings from the second wave of longitudinal follow-up data collected from children and their families from the older child Better Beginnings sites as the children entered Grade 9, six years after Better Beginnings programs ended. The objectives of this medium term follow-up research were to determine effects on the Better Beginnings programs on Grade 9 children and their families, and to relate short-term program costs to medium-term potential cost savings. The report presents findings related to these objectives which show generally positive impacts of the Better Beginnings project on Grade 9 children and their families six years after ending project involvement. We found better outcomes in five key school related outcome measures for youth (e.g., less special education use, fewer grades repeated, less inattentive-hyperactive behaviour). For parents, we found greater feelings of social support, more marital satisfaction, better family functioning, and more neighbourhood satisfaction. In addition, a preliminary indication of cost-saving benefits to the government combine to suggest that the Better Beginnings project is leading to better futures for some of Ontario's most vulnerable children and their families.
Also, see the December 2010 Issue of the Society for Research in Child Development Monograph
Although comprehensive and ecological approaches to early childhood prevention are commonly advocated, there are few examples of long-term follow-up of such programs. In this monograph, we investigate the medium- and long-term effects of an ecological, community-based prevention project for primary school children and families living in three economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in Ontario, Canada. The Better Beginnings, Better Futures (BBBF) project is one of the most ambitious Canadian research projects on the long-term impacts of early childhood prevention programming to date. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model of human development informed program planning, implementation, and evaluation. Using a quasi-experimental design, the BBBF longitudinal research study involved 601 children and their families who participated in BBBF programs when children were between 4 and 8 years old and 358 children and their families from sociodemographically matched comparison communities. We collected extensive child, parent, family, and community outcome data when children were in Grade 3 (age 8–9), Grade 6 (age 11–12), and Grade 9 (age 14–15).
The BBBF mandate was to develop programs that would positively impact all areas of child’s development; our findings reflect this ecological approach.We found marked positive effects in social and school functioning domains in Grades 6 and 9 and evidence of fewer emotional and behavioral problems in school across the three grades. Parents from BBBF sites reported greater feelings of social support and more positive ratings of marital satisfaction and general family functioning, especially at the Grade 9 followup. Positive neighborhood-level effects were also evident. Economic analyses at Grade 9 showed BBBF participation was associated with government savings of $912 per child.
These findings provide evidence that an affordable, ecological, community-based prevention program can promote long-term development of children living in disadvantaged neighborhoods and produce monetary benefits to government as soon as 7 years after program completion.
3. Sustainability Report
This report presents research findings from data collected in 2003 in each Better Beginnings, Better Futures neighbourhood. These data are compared to those collected in 1998. A general conclusion of the report is that the eight Better Beginnings projects were continuing to function well in 2003, despite substantial changes in organizational structure in several project sites since 1998. Also, children in the Better Beginnings neighbourhoods generally are showing better school performance and behaviour than those from the comparison neighbourhoods, and these differences are greater in 2003 than in 1998/99. In a word, the Better Beginnings projects are sustainable.
Better Beginnings, Better Futures: Project Sustainability (2005)
- Full Report (301 pages, 1.3mb): PDF
- Introduction (6 pages, 243kb): PDF
- Section A (157 pages, 715kb): PDF
- Section B (39 pages, 403kb): PDF
- Summary and Conclusions (9 pages, 181kb): PDF
- References and Appendices (90 pages, 457kb): PDF
- Craig, W., Schumann, L., Petrunka, K., Khan, S., & Peters, R. (2011). Government costs associated with delinquent trajectories. International Journal of Child, Youth, and Family Studies, 2(1), 263-293. Reprint Request
- Janzen, R., Pancer, S.M., Nelson, G., Loomis, C., & Hasford, J. (2010). Evaluating community participation as prevention: Life narratives of youth. Journal of Community Psychology, 38, 992-1006. Reprint Request
- Love, N., Nelson, G., Pancer, S.M., Loomis, C., & Hasford, J. (in press). Generativity as a positive mental health outcome: The long-term impacts of Better Beginnings, Better Futures on youth at ages 18-19. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health. Reprint Request
- Nelson, G., Van Andel, A.K., Eckerle Curwood, S., Hasford, J., Love, N., Pancer, S.M., & Loomis, C. (2012). Exploring outcomes through narrative: Long-term impacts of Better Beginnings, Better Futures on the turning point stories of youth ages 18-19. American Journal of Community Psychology, 49, 294-306. Reprint Request
- Pancer, S.M., Nelson, G., Hasford, J., & Loomis, C. (in press). The Better Beginnings, Better Futures project: Long-term parent, family, and community outcomes of a universal, comprehensive, community-based prevention approach for primary school children and their families. Journal of Community and Applied Social and Community Psychology. Reprint Request