Context: Home-visitation services have been promoted as a means of improving maternal and child health and functioning. However, long-term effects have not been examined.
Objective: To examine the long-term effects of a program of prenatal and early childhood home visitation by nurses on women's life course and child abuse and neglect.
Design: Randomized trial.
Setting: Semirural community in New York.
Participants: Of 400 consecutive pregnant women with no previous live births enrolled, 324 participated in a follow-up study when their children were 15 years old.
Intervention: Families received a mean of 9 home visits during pregnancy and 23 home visits from the child's birth through the second birthday. DATA SOURCES AND MEASURES: Women's use of welfare and number of subsequent children were based on self-report; their arrests and convictions were based on self-report and archived data from New York State. Verified reports of child abuse and neglect were abstracted from state records.
Main results: During the 15-year period after the birth of their first child, in contrast to women in the comparison group, women who were visited by nurses during pregnancy and infancy were identified as perpetrators of child abuse and neglect in 0.29 vs 0.54 verified reports (P<.001). Among women who were unmarried and from households of low socioeconomic status at initial enrollment, in contrast to those in the comparison group, nurse-visited women had 1.3 vs 1.6 subsequent births (P=.02), 65 vs 37 months between the birth of the first and a second child (P=.001), 60 vs 90 months' receiving Aid to Families With Dependent Children (P=.005), 0.41 vs 0.73 behavioral impairments due to use of alcohol and other drugs (P=.03), 0.18 vs 0.58 arrests by self-report (P<.001), and 0.16 vs 0.90 arrests disclosed by New York State records (P<.001).
Conclusions: This program of prenatal and early childhood home visitation by nurses can reduce the number of subsequent pregnancies, the use of welfare, child abuse and neglect, and criminal behavior on the part of low-income, unmarried mothers for up to 15 years after the birth of the first child.