Effects of home visits by paraprofessionals and by nurses on children: follow-up of a randomized trial at ages 6 and 9 years

JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Feb;168(2):114-21. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.3817.


Importance: The Nurse-Family Partnership delivered by nurses has been found to produce long-term effects on maternal and child health in replicated randomized trials. A persistent question is whether paraprofessional home visitors might produce comparable effects.

Objective: To examine the impact of prenatal and infancy/toddler home visits by paraprofessionals and by nurses on child development at child ages 6 and 9 years.

Design, setting, and participants: Randomized trial in public and private care settings in Denver, Colorado, of 735 low-income women and their first-born children (85% of the mothers were unmarried; 47% were Hispanic, 35% were non-Hispanic white, 15% were African American, and 3% were American Indian/Asian).

Interventions: Home visits provided from pregnancy through child age 2 years delivered in one group by paraprofessionals and in the other by nurses.

Main outcomes and measures: Reports of children's internalizing, externalizing, and total emotional/behavioral problems, and tests of children's language, intelligence, attention, attention dysfunction, visual attention/task switching, working memory, and academic achievement. We hypothesized that program effects on cognitive-related outcomes would be more pronounced among children born to mothers with low psychological resources. We report paraprofessional-control and nurse-control differences with P < .10 given similar effects in a previous trial, earlier effects in this trial, and limited statistical power.

Results: There were no significant paraprofessional effects on emotional/behavioral problems, but paraprofessional-visited children born to mothers with low psychological resources compared with control group counterparts exhibited fewer errors in visual attention/task switching at age 9 years (effect size = -0.30, P = .08). There were no statistically significant paraprofessional effects on other primary outcomes. Nurse-visited children were less likely to be classified as having total emotional/behavioral problems at age 6 years (relative risk [RR] = 0.45, P = .08), internalizing problems at age 9 years (RR = 0.44, P = .08), and dysfunctional attention at age 9 years (RR = 0.34, P = .07). Nurse-visited children born to low-resource mothers compared with control-group counterparts had better receptive language averaged over ages 2, 4, and 6 years (effect size = 0.30, P = .01) and sustained attention averaged over ages 4, 6, and 9 years (effect size = 0.36, P = .006). There were no significant nurse effects on externalizing problems, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement.

Conclusions and relevance: Children born to low-resource mothers visited by paraprofessionals exhibited improvement in visual attention/task switching. Nurse-visited children showed improved behavioral functioning, and those born to low-resource mothers benefited in language and attention but did not improve in intellectual functioning and academic achievement.

Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00438282 and NCT00438594.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Child Health Services*
  • Child Welfare*
  • Colorado
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Home Care Services*
  • House Calls*
  • Humans
  • Private Sector
  • Public Sector
  • Workforce

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00438282
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00438594