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March 2003Vol. 4, No. 2Study Shows Preschool Can Help Prevent Child Abuse

New findings from a University of Wisconsin-Madison longitudinal study provide evidence that preschool programs positively impact not only school readiness and performance, but also long-term family outcomes. The study, published in the January/February 2003 issue of Child Development, found evidence that the Chicago School District's Child-Parent Centers (CPCs)--the nation's second oldest Federally funded preschool program, after Head Start--help reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect among participating families.

Researchers compared 913 children who participated in a CPC preschool program with 495 low-income children who did not attend the program but did receive full-day kindergarten. They observed the children between the ages of 4 and 17. Among their findings:

  • Children who attended a CPC had a 52 percent lower rate of maltreatment by age 17 (5 percent vs. 10.5 percent) than those who didn't.
  • Among children who attended a CPC program, those enrolled for more than 4 years experienced a 48 percent lower rate of maltreatment than those enrolled between 1 and 4 years (3.6 percent vs. 6.9 percent).
  • The greatest difference in maltreatment rates between children who attended a CPC and those who didn't occurred when the children were between 10 and 17 years old--at least 6 years after enrollment.

Parent involvement in the program, a strong emphasis of the CPCs, was cited as one of the main sources of these beneficial effects. Resource coordinators at the centers help parents receive the support and services they need to care for their children at home.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education. More information about the study can be found on the University of Wisconsin-Madison website at

Related Item

Read more in "Early Head Start Grants Announced" in this issue of Children's Bureau Express.