Objective: To examine the effects of prenatal and infancy home visiting by paraprofessionals and by nurses from child age 2 through age 4 years.
Methods: We conducted, in public and private care settings in Denver, Colorado, a randomized, controlled trial with 3 arms, ie, control, paraprofessional visits, and nurse visits. Home visits were provided from pregnancy through child age 2 years. We invited 1178 consecutive, low-income, pregnant women with no previous live births to participate, and we randomized 735; 85% were unmarried, 47% Mexican American, 35% white non-Mexican American, 15% black, and 3% American Indian/Asian. Outcomes consisted of maternal reports of subsequent pregnancies, participation in education and work, use of welfare, marriage, cohabitation, experience of domestic violence, mental health, substance use, and sense of mastery; observations of mother-child interaction and the home environment; tests of children's language and executive functioning; and mothers' reports of children's externalizing behavior problems.
Results: Two years after the program ended, women who were visited by paraprofessionals, compared with control subjects, were less likely to be married (32.2% vs 44.0%) and to live with the biological father of the child (32.7% vs 43.1%) but worked more (15.13 months vs 13.38 months) and reported a greater sense of mastery and better mental health (standardized scores [mean = 100, SD = 10] of 101.25 vs 99.31 and 101.21 vs 99.16, respectively). Paraprofessional-visited women had fewer subsequent miscarriages (6.6% vs 12.3%) and low birth weight newborns (2.8% vs 7.7%). Mothers and children who were visited by paraprofessionals, compared with control subjects, displayed greater sensitivity and responsiveness toward one another (standardized score [mean = 100, SD = 10] of 100.92 vs 98.66) and, in cases in which the mothers had low levels of psychologic resources at registration, had home environments that were more supportive of children's early learning (score of 24.63 vs 23.35). Nurse-visited women reported greater intervals between the births of their first and second children (24.51 months vs 20.39 months) and less domestic violence (6.9% vs 13.6%) and enrolled their children less frequently in preschool, Head Start, or licensed day care than did control subjects. Nurse-visited children whose mothers had low levels of psychologic resources at registration, compared with control group counterparts, demonstrated home environments that were more supportive of children's early learning (score of 24.61 vs 23.35), more advanced language (score of 91.39 vs 86.73), superior executive functioning (score of 100.16 vs 95.48), and better behavioral adaptation during testing (score of 100.41 vs 96.66). There were no statistically significant effects of either nurse or paraprofessional visits on the number of subsequent pregnancies, women's educational achievement, use of substances, use of welfare, or children's externalizing behavior problems.
Conclusions: Paraprofessional-visited mothers began to experience benefits from the program 2 years after the program ended at child age 2 years, but their first-born children were not statistically distinguishable from their control group counterparts. Nurse-visited mothers and children continued to benefit from the program 2 years after it ended. The impact of the nurse-delivered program on children was concentrated on children born to mothers with low levels of psychologic resources.