Objective: To examine, during the 3rd and 4th years of life, the health, development, rates of child maltreatment, and living conditions of children who had been enrolled in a randomized trial of nurse home visitation during pregnancy and first 2 years of their lives.
Design: Prospective follow-up of families who had been randomly assigned to nurse-visited and comparison conditions.
Setting: Study conducted in semirural community in upstate New York. Families dispersed among 14 other states during 2-year period after children's second birthdays.
Participants: Four hundred women were recruited through a health department antepartum clinic and offices of private obstetricians and were registered before 30th week of pregnancy. All women had no previous live births and 85% were either teenaged (< 18 years at registration), unmarried, or from Hollingshead social classes IV or V. Analysis focused on whites, who comprised 89% of sample.
Intervention: Nurse home visitation from pregnancy through second year of the child's life.
Main results: There were no treatment differences in the rates of child abuse and neglect or children's intellectual functioning from 25 to 48 months of age. Nurse-visited children, nevertheless, lived in homes with fewer hazards for children; they had 40% fewer injuries and ingestions and 45% fewer behavioral and parental coping problems noted in the physician record; and they made 35% fewer visits to the emergency department than did children in the comparison group. Nurse-visited mothers were observed to be more involved with and to punish their children to a greater extent than were mothers in the comparison group. The functional meaning of punishment differed between the nurse-visited and comparison families.
Conclusions: The program does have enduring effects on certain aspects of parental caregiving, safety of the home, and children's use of the health care system, but it may be necessary to extend the length of the program for families at highest risk to produce lasting reductions in child abuse and neglect.