Early head start: Mental health, parenting, and impacts on children

Catherine C. Ayoub, Jessica Dym Bartlett, Rachel Chazan-Cohen, Helen Raikes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Early Head Start (EHS) is a federally funded community-based program for low-income pregnant women and families with infants and toddlers. As one of the largest early intervention programs in the US, EHS focuses on promoting healthy prenatal outcomes for pregnant women, enhancing the development of very young children, and supporting healthy family functioning. The program was established in 1994 as part of the re-authorization of Head Start, a federal initiative responding to mounting scientific evidence that a child's earliest years of life constitute a critical period of human development and a key determinant of individual health and well-being over the lifespan (CarnegieCorporation of NewYork, 1994; National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2005; Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000). It had become increasingly clear that, because individual developmental processes both influence and are influenced by early environments (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), intervention efforts would need to attend to infant-caregiver relationships and family well-being as the primary contexts in which a child's development unfolds (Ainsworth, 1973; Bowlby, 1969). Programs have indeed had demonstrable positive effects on parent- child interaction in the early years (Brooks-Gunn, Berlin, and Fuligni, 2000; Brooks-Gunn andMarkman, 2005). In line with an ecological view of child development, the Advisory Committee on Services for Families with Infants and Toddlers (ACSFIT, 1994) formed by the US Secretary of Health and Human Services recommended that the EHS program address the needs of low-income parents and young children based on four cornerstones of practice: (1) supporting child development, (2) empowering families, (3) building communities, and (4) enhancing staff quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHealth and Education in Early Childhood
Subtitle of host publicationPredictors, Interventions, and Policies
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781139814805
ISBN (Print)9781107038349
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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