Strong early education equals better relationships with parents

The study followed 96 children for over 40 years starting in 1971.
By Amy Wallace   |   April 6, 2017 at 11:34 AM
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April 6 (UPI) -- Researchers at Virginia Tech have found children who get high-quality education at an early age have better relationships with their parents as adults.

The study by scientists at Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute followed 96 children participating in the Abecedarian Project, an early education program for at-risk infants and children started in 1971 and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The children were divided into two groups, a control group and a treatment group. Both groups received health care, nutrition and family support throughout the study but the treatment group also received five years of early education starting at 6 weeks old and continuing through age 5.

"The most recent findings from the Abecedarian Project are about the quality of life, tied to what the children experienced in the first five years of life," Craig Ramey, professor and research scholar of human development at the Carilion Institute, said in a press release. "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."

Results showed children who received the educational support were more likely to be employed full-time, owned a car, a home, had savings and have better relationships with their parents as adults than those who did not receive that support. Researchers conducted follow-up interviews with the study participants as they entered middle age.

"The data show that children who received the educational treatment are successful socially, especially in a familial setting, as indicated by their close relationships with their mothers and fathers in middle age," said Libbie Sonnier-Netto, a doctoral student in human development at Virginia Tech's College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Researchers also found that early education services had another added benefit in adulthood.

"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,'" Ramey said.

The study will be presented at the meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development on April 7, 2017.

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