New Book Provides Inside Story of Abecedarian Project

Date Published: 10/11/2012

FPG’s reputation as a premier early childhood research institute has its roots in our longest running research study—the Abecedarian Project. This fall marks the 40th anniversary of the enrollment of infants into this highly regarded scientific study of the potential benefits of early childhood education for children raised in low-income environments.

FPG Senior Scientist Dr. Frances Campbell and, more recently, FPG Scientist Dr. Liz Pungello have followed the Abecedarian participants across this 40-year time span. The latest data from the year 30 follow up were published in the journal Development Psychology earlier this year, and the findings add to the weight of evidence supporting the benefits of early educational intervention.

At age 30, study participants had significantly more years of education than peers who were part of a control group and they were four times more likely to have earned college degrees. Other benefits included that participants were more likely to have been consistently employed and less likely to have used public assistance. They also showed a tendency to delay parenthood by almost two years.

So what was the Abecedarian Approach and how did it promote such long-lasting benefits for participants? Abecedarian participants received a full-time, year round educational intervention in a childcare setting from infancy through their entry to kindergarten. Educational activities focused on social, emotional, and cognitive development with particular emphasis on language development. Participants also received on-site health care, and their families received parent education.

Members of the original Abecedarian Project leadership including Dr. Craig Ramey, Professor and Distinguished Research Scholar at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, and Dr. Joe Sparling, FPG Senior Scientist Emeritus, recently published a comprehensive volume detailing the project titled Abecedarian: The Ideas, the Approach, and the Findings. The new book authored by Ramey, Sparling, and Sharon Landesman Ramey shares the inside story of the project from its inception, design, and implementation through research highlights and policy implications. The volume was published under a grant from the National Institutes of Health that aims to document early educational interventions with proven benefits.

The book authors and Abecedarian researchers, including Dr. Campbell and Dr. Pungello, will share stories and insights about the project during a conversation hour at FPG on October 12 at 2:00 pm in the Sheryl-Mar South Building.

For more information, see Sociometrics Corporation.