New results from a 40-year longitudinal study just added to the growing evidence for the benefits of high-quality early education: According to the report, young children who received high-quality education starting at six weeks old and continuing through five years old were more likely to be employed full-time and experience better relationships with their parents in adulthood.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, followed 96 children who were part of an early education program for under-resourced infants and children, known as the Abecedarian Project.
The research started in 1971 to study the long-term impacts of high-quality services, including health care, nutrition, social services, and family support, on children and their families. Both the control and treatment group received these services; but the treatment group also received five years of early care and education.
Craig Ramey, a professor and distinguished research scholar of human development at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, explained, “We have demonstrated that when we provide vulnerable children and families with really high quality services—educationally, medically, socially—we have impacts of a large and practical magnitude all the way up to middle age.”
Teacher involvement to support early learners
Ramey also explained how crucial the interaction and relationship of teachers and children can be to meet a child’s specific learning needs. Activities directed towards literacy and language development for the youngest learners, such as teachers or parents reading out loud to a child, have a huge role in early child learning and development. Plus, enjoyable learning activities can help a child develop a love for future learning.
In addition to having closer relationships with their mothers and fathers in middle age and being more likely to be employed, researchers found another trend among children from the educational group. Sharon Ramey, chief science officer of Roanoke, Virginia, professor and researcher, explained, “We also discovered that individuals who received early high-quality care and education also have a keen sense of social equality—and make decisions that balance the equation between those who ‘have’ and those who ‘have much less.’”
The researchers plan to continue analyzing the dataset about the effects of early care and education on the children as they progress through middle age. You can read more about the study here.