EHLS at school: school-age follow-up of the early home learning study cluster randomized controlled trial
journal contributionposted on 02.05.2018, 00:00 authored by Elizabeth WestruppElizabeth Westrupp, C Bennett, M Cullinane, N J Hackworth, D Berthelsen, S Reilly, F K Mensah, Lisa GoldLisa Gold, S K Bennetts, P Levickis, J M Nicholson
BACKGROUND: Targeted interventions during early childhood can assist families in providing strong foundations that promote children's health and wellbeing across the life course. There is growing recognition that longer follow-up times are necessary to assess intervention outcomes, as effects may change as children develop. The Early Home Learning Study, or 'EHLS', comprised two cluster randomized controlled superiority trials of a brief parenting intervention, smalltalk, aimed at supporting parents to strengthen the early childhood home learning environment of infants (6-12 months) or toddlers (12-36 months). Results showed sustained improvements in parent-child interactions and the home environment at the 32 week follow-up for the toddler but not the infant trial. The current study will therefore follow up the EHLS toddler cohort to primary school age, with the aim of addressing a gap in literature concerning long-term effects of early childhood interventions focused on improving school readiness and later developmental outcomes. METHODS: 'EHLS at School' is a school-aged follow-up study of the toddler cluster randomized controlled trial (n = 1226). Data will be collected by parent-, child- and teacher-report questionnaires, recorded observations of parent-child interactions, and direct child assessment when children are aged 7.5 years old. Data linkage will provide additional data on child health and academic functioning at ages 5, 8 and 10 years. Child outcomes will be compared for families allocated to standard/usual care (control) versus those allocated to the smalltalk program (group program only or group program with additional home coaching). DISCUSSION: Findings from The Early Home Learning Study provided evidence of the benefits of the smalltalk intervention delivered via facilitated playgroups for parents of toddlers. The EHLS at School Study aims to examine the long-term outcomes of this initiative to determine whether improvements in the quality of the parent-child relationship persist over time and translate into benefits for children's social, academic and behavioral skills that last into the school years. TRIAL REGISTRATION: 8 September 2011; ACTRN12611000965909 (for the original EHLS).