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Abecedarian Project

The Abecedarian Project was a carefully controlled scientific study of the potential benefits of early childhood education for poor children. Four cohorts of individuals, born between 1972 and 1977, were randomly assigned as infants to either the early educational intervention group or the control group.

  • Children from low-income families received full-time, high-quality educational intervention in a childcare setting from infancy through age 5.
  • Each child had an individualized prescription of educational activities.
  • Educational activities consisted of "games" incorporated into the child's day.
  • Activities focused on social, emotional, and cognitive areas of development but gave particular emphasis to language.
  • Children's progress was monitored over time with follow-up studies conducted at ages 12, 15, 21, and 30.
  • The young adult findings demonstrate that important, long-lasting benefits were associated with the early childhood program.

Dr. Craig Ramey, now at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, was the Principal Investigator of the original study. Dr. Frances Campbell, now retired, was the Principal Investigator of the Age-21 and later follow-up studies.