Objective: To test, with an urban, primarily black sample, the effects of prenatal and infancy home visits by nurses on mothers' fertility and economic self-sufficiency and the academic and behavioral adjustment of their children as the children finished kindergarten, near their sixth birthday.
Methods: We conducted a randomized, controlled trial of a program of prenatal and infancy home-visiting in a public system of obstetric and pediatric care in Memphis, Tennessee. A total of 743 primarily black women at <29 weeks of gestation, with no previous live births and with > or =2 sociodemographic risk characteristics (unmarried, <12 years of education, or unemployed), were randomly assigned to receive nurse home visits or comparison services. Outcomes consisted of women's number and timing of subsequent pregnancies, months of employment, use of welfare, food stamps, and Medicaid, educational achievement, behavioral problems attributable to the use of substances, rates of marriage and cohabitation, and duration of relationships with partners and their children's behavior problems, responses to story stems, intellectual functioning, receptive language, and academic achievement.
Results: In contrast to counterparts assigned to the comparison group, women visited by nurses had fewer subsequent pregnancies and births (1.16 vs 1.38 pregnancies and 1.08 vs 1.28 births, respectively), longer intervals between births of the first and second children (34.28 vs 30.23 months), longer relationships with current partners (54.36 vs 45.00 months), and, since the previous follow-up evaluation at 4.5 years, fewer months of using welfare (7.21 vs 8.96 months) and food stamps (9.67 vs 11.50 months). Nurse-visited children were more likely to have been enrolled in formal out-of-home care between 2 and 4.5 years of age (82.0% vs 74.9%). Children visited by nurses demonstrated higher intellectual functioning and receptive vocabulary scores (scores of 92.34 vs 90.24 and 84.32 vs 82.13, respectively) and fewer behavior problems in the borderline or clinical range (1.8% vs 5.4%). Nurse-visited children born to mothers with low levels of psychologic resources had higher arithmetic achievement test scores (score of 88.61 vs 85.42) and expressed less aggression (score of 98.58 vs 101.10) and incoherence (score of 20.90 vs 29.84) in response to story stems. There were no statistically significant program effects on women's education, duration of employment, rates of marriage, being in a partnered relationship, living with the father of the child, or domestic violence, current partner's educational level, or behavioral problems attributable to the use of alcohol or drugs.
Conclusion: This program of prenatal and infancy home-visiting by nurses continued to improve the lives of women and children at child age 6 years, 4 years after the program ended.