Childhood Drug Prevention Reaps Benefits Across Generations

A new study published on JAMA Pediatrics on June 30, 2020, finds that childhood drug prevention intervention reaps benefits across generations.

In this study, the researchers at the University of Washington assessed children whose parents had participated in a program called Raising Healthy Children (RHC) from first through sixth grades in the 1980s. The program which was implemented in high crime neighborhoods in Seattle was one of the first programs to test if problem behaviors could be prevented with specialized training for teachers, parents and young children.

Previously conducted studies showed the positive results of the program on those who participated directly. For instance, those positive results included by age of 18:

  • Better academic achievement,
  • Less chance of engaging in violence, substance use or unsafe sex;

And those positive results included by age of 30:

  • Gone further in school,
  • Being better off financially, and
  • Better scores on mental health assessments.

Previous studies have shown that childhood interventions can demonstrate benefits well into adulthood. These results show that benefits may extend into the next generation as well,” said Dr. Karl Hill, lead author of the study and the director of the Problem Behavior and Positive Youth Development Program at the University of Colorado Boulder, as per Eureka Alert.

As the original participants benefited from the program the researchers decided it was worth to study if they also became better parents.

Beginning in 2002, the researchers started following the first-born children of program participants via questionnaires for their teachers and parents and, beginning at age 6, annual interviews with the children. A total of 182 kids were studied for the new paper, including 72 whose parents had gone through the program and 110 whose parents had not.

Their study found the following:

The children whose parents had participated in RHC,

  • had fewer developmental delays in the first five years of life;
  • fewer behavior problems;
  • fewer symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD);
  • better cognitive, academic and emotional maturity in the classroom; and were
  • significantly less likely to report using alcohol or other drugs as a teenager.

Outcomes of Childhood Preventive Intervention Across Generations

Furthermore, children whose parents had gone through the program in the 1980s also showed less “oppositional defiance” and “externalizing behaviors” – two common precursors to serious violence later in life.

This suggests evidence-based prevention interventions such as Raising Healthy Children (RHC) can stem violence and specifically school violence.

By investing in kids now and continuing to invest in them, we could be making generations to come more resilient for when the next national emergency comes around,” said Dr. Hill.