Advances in knowledge and opportunities for research in the prevention field of early childhood intervention are discussed. Although significant progress in understanding the effects of early childhood interventions has occurred in the past three decades, questions surrounding the causal mechanisms of change, who benefits most from which program components, and the reliability of effects for large-scale programs deserve special attention. Confirmatory program evaluation is discussed as a method for addressing these and other questions in research on early intervention and in other social interventions. Confirmatory program evaluation is a theory-based impact assessment that emphasizes the explication and testing of a priori program theories in determining effectiveness. Greater emphasis is given to identifying the causal mechanisms or active ingredients of intervention effects. Examples from the Chicago Longitudinal Study are highlighted to show how confirmatory approaches can help validate the effects of a variety of social programs and policies.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Preparation of this paper was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (No. R01HD34294) and the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement (No. R305T990477). I thank the Chicago Public Schools, Juvenile Justice Division in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois Department of Child and Family Services, Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, and the City Colleges of Chicago for cooperation in data collection.
- Chicago Longitudinal Study
- Child development
- Early childhood
- Longitudinal research
- Social intervention