THURSDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- Children enrolled in a full-time preschool program that sees them through elementary school have a better life 25 years later than children who were not in preschool do, University of Minnesota researchers report.
Children who went through preschool have higher incomes, higher education levels, a higher socioeconomic status and are less likely to abuse drugs or be involved in criminal activities, the investigators found. They are also more likely to have health insurance coverage.
"These effects haven't been found before for public programs, so the findings are encouraging to provide access to high-quality programs through public funding for kids at risk," said lead researcher Arthur J. Reynolds, a professor in the university's Institute of Child Development.
Preschool also seemed to be especially beneficial for males and children from high-risk or impoverished families.
The report was published in the June 9 issue of Science.
For the study, Reynolds' team followed 1,386 children, 989 of whom were enrolled in the Chicago-based Child-Parent Center Education Program from 1983 to 1989, and 550 who weren't. The program is funded by the federal government.
All the children went to full-day kindergarten and received social services. Fifteen percent of the control group attended Head Start, with the rest in home care.
According to Reynolds, the preschool program succeeded for several reasons. First, children were enrolled when they were 3 so they get more participation in the program. "We know that the amount of time in the program is associated with gains," he said.
Also, since the program is run by local schools, all the teachers were certified in early childhood education, which is not true of many preschool programs, Reynolds said. The program was also coupled with outreach programs that involved parents
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