Objective: To test, among an urban primarily African American sample, the effects of prenatal and infancy home visiting by nurses on mothers' fertility, partner relationships, and economic self-sufficiency and on government spending through age 12 years of their firstborn child.
Design: Randomized controlled trial.
Setting: Public system of obstetric and pediatric care in Memphis, Tennessee.
Participants: A total of 594 urban primarily African American economically disadvantaged mothers (among 743 who registered during pregnancy). Intervention Prenatal and infancy home visiting by nurses.
Main outcome measures: Mothers' cohabitation with and marriage to the child's biological father, intimate partner violence, duration (stability) of partner relationships, role impairment due to alcohol and other drug use, use and cost of welfare benefits, arrests, mastery, child foster care placements, and cumulative subsequent births.
Results: By the time the firstborn child was 12 years old, nurse-visited mothers compared with control subjects reported less role impairment owing to alcohol and other drug use (0.0% vs 2.5%, P = .04), longer partner relationships (59.58 vs 52.67 months, P = .02), and greater sense of mastery (101.04 vs 99.60, P = .005). During this 12-year period, government spent less per year on food stamps, Medicaid, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for nurse-visited than control families ($8772 vs $9797, P = .02); this represents $12 300 in discounted savings compared with a program cost of $11 511, both expressed in 2006 US dollars. No statistically significant program effects were noted on mothers' marriage, partnership with the child's biological father, intimate partner violence, alcohol and other drug use, arrests, incarceration, psychological distress, or reports of child foster care placements.
Conclusion: The program improved maternal life course and reduced government spending among children through age 12 years.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00438165.