Intergenerational Persistence of Treatment Effects

Project Description

The 15 million children in the United States who live in families below the poverty line are at risk for serious health problems ranging from chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes to mental health problems such as depression and substance use disorders. Many childhood interventions target low-income and high-risk children, with evidence that some early interventions improve adult health and wellbeing. However, little is known about whether, and how, the benefits of childhood interventions get transmitted across generations. This study asks whether children who benefit from early interventions grow up to become better parents and, subsequently, have children who experience fewer health problems, educational challenges, and emotional problems.

This project brings together two longstanding studies (Fast Track and Great Smoky Mountains Study) to test how successful childhood interventions influence future parenting and whether benefits persist into the next generation. Analyses will draw on new data collected from parent surveys, low-cost daily virtual assessments of parents and children, and high-quality education and birth records of the offspring. Findings will inform prevention efforts, developmental science, and policy by mapping how childhood interventions may be transmitted across generations.

Project Goals

We will collect identical measures of risks to parenting, parenting environments, and parenting behaviors and information on the over 5000 offspring of these study members via a harmonized parent and offspring survey, a low-cost daily virtual assessment of parenting and child wellbeing, and high quality educational and birth records. We will then test whether the positive income shock, or separately, random assignment to the Fast Track intervention in childhood, improves future parenting and, subsequently, offspring adjustment. For GSMS, we conduct an innovative population-wide extension to include all children aged 8 to 18 living in the counties where the income shock occurred. We will also test hypotheses about which subgroups (e.g., highest risk, females, those showing maximal initial impact) are most likely to likely to pass on benefits of the intervention to their own children, and which mechanisms mediate intervention impact.

More information here.

Related Findings and Resources