Aug 27, 2013


Preparing for Life is intended to improve school readiness among low-income children by providing mothers with support and training related to child development, using a home visitation model.  An experimental evaluation of the program found that the intervention impacted a limited number of child development outcomes and positively impacted the quality of the home environment, parent-child interactions, and child care arrangements.


Target population: Low-income, pregnant women and their children between the ages of 0-5

The goal of the Preparing for Life (PFL) program is to improve school readiness among low-income children. PFL consists of supports for low-income mothers, designed to increase their knowledge of child development and their ability to provide a developmentally-appropriate home environment.  These goals are met primarily through a home visiting service, whereby mentors visit participants in their homes weekly for between 30 minutes and 2 hours during pregnancy, up until the child enters school at age 4-5.  Mentors are trained to support and educate parents about child development during structured home visits using “tips sheets,” which are given to parents as an on-going parenting resource.  Once children reach the age of 2, parents also receive group parent training through the Triple P Positive Parenting program.


Doyle, O., Harmon, C., Heckman, J.J., Logue, C., & Moon, S. (2013). Measuring investment in human capital formation: An experimental analysis of early life outcomes. (NBER Working Paper 19316). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

Evaluated population: A total of 233 pregnant women residing in a multi-generation, suburban community consisting primarily of low-density, public housing in Dublin, Ireland, participated in the study.  Participants were 26 years of age on average, 50 percent lived with their parents, 80 percent reported having a partner, 40 percent were employed, and 30 percent reported having no schooling beyond the age of 16.  Fifty percent of women reported that this was their first pregnancy, 50 percent smoked during pregnancy, and 25 percent reported consuming alcohol at some point during the pregnancy.

Approach:  Participants were randomized to the intervention (n=115) or active control (n=118) condition.  Mothers in the active control condition received: developmental toys each year, facilitated access to preschool, and access to a support worker to provide details about public benefits.  They were also encouraged to attend workshops on healthy eating and stress control.  Mothers in the intervention condition received the same services, as well as the Preparing for Life home visiting services.  Because this evaluation is restricted to outcomes up to 18 months of age, mothers in the intervention condition would not yet have been eligible for the Triple P Positive Parenting Program, which begins at age 2.

To assess the effectiveness of the program, data were collected on mothers’ parenting behaviors and child developmental outcomes.  Data were collected at post-test, a 6-month follow-up, and a 12-month follow-up. Various scales were administered to examine 31 different child development and parenting outcomes. Measures included the Ages and Stages Questionnaire and the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME).

Results:  Some evidence of a statistically significant impact on child development was found, although there was a significant positive impact on fine motor skills at 12 months, and gross motor skills and cognitive development at 18 months.  There was also evidence of a statistically significant positive impact on some parenting outcomes, with intervention parents providing their children a greater variety of learning materials and were also of higher quality; engaging in more frequent interactions with their babies during home visits; and limiting their use of unnecessary punishment. Intervention parents were also significantly more likely to have made higher quality childcare arrangements at 6 months.



Doyle, O., Harmon, C., Heckman, J.J., Logue, C., & Moon, S. (2013). Measuring investment in human capital formation: An experimental analysis of early life outcomes. (NBER Working Paper 19316). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.Website:

KEYWORDS: Infants, Toddlers, Males and Females, High-Risk, Home-based, Home visitation, Parent or Family Component, Parent Training/Education

Program information last updated 8/27/13