Frisch seminar: Guido Biele
The effect of special educational assistance in early childhood education and care on psycho-social difficulties in elementary school children
Abstract: Three to seven percent of preschoolers have developmental problems or child psychiatric disorders. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) indicate that interventions in early childhood education and care improve long-term outcomes of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is unknown if effects generalize beyond the well-structured context of RCTs and to children who may not have a disadvantaged background but have developmental problems or psychiatric disorders. We use data from the population-based Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study, recruiting pregnant women from 1999 to 2008, with child follow-up from ages 6, 18, and 36 months to ages 5, 7, and 8 years. This sub-study included 2499 children with developmental problems or psychiatric disorders at age five. We investigate the effects of special educational assistance at age five on mother-reported internalizing, externalizing, and communication problems at age eight. We analyze bias due to treatment by indication with directed acyclic graphs, adjust for treatment predictors to reduce bias, and estimate effects in different patient groups and outcome domains with a hierarchical Bayesian model. In the adjusted analysis, preschoolers with special educational assistance had on average by 0.1 (0.03-0.16) standardized mean deviation weaker psycho-social difficulties in elementary school. Mean effect sizes varied between groups and outcomes. We estimate positive effects of educational assistance during the transition from preschool to the school years. It should therefore be considered as an intervention for preschoolers with developmental or behavior problems. More research with improved measurements of treatment and outcomes is needed to identify success factors for their implementation.