Programs that Work
Parent-Child Home Program
Children Ready for School
Children ages 0 to 5 exhibiting age-appropriate mental and physical development
Age of Child
Early Childhood (0-8)
Type of Setting
Type of Service
Type of Outcome Addressed
Cognitive Development / School Performance
Evidence Level (What does this mean?)
The Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP) is a home visitation program that supports positive parenting practices and helps parents learn how to stimulate their children's cognitive and social-emotional development. PCHP home visitors meet with parents and their children in the home for a half hour, twice per week. On the first visit of each week, the home visitor brings a book or educational toy (known as verbal interaction stimulus materials, or VISM), which is the curricular material for the week, and demonstrates how to use the book or toy through reading, play, and conversation activities to promote school readiness, early literacy, and parent-child verbal interaction. The home visitor then leaves these materials with the parents so that they will be able to continue these behaviors with their children throughout the week and after the program is concluded. PCHP home visitors meet with families for two 23-week cycles (46 home visits in each cycle) over a two-year period, for a total of 92 of sessions over 46 weeks (many sites operate on a school year calendar over the two years). By the end of two years, it is expected that PCHP will have provided families not only with a library of high-quality children's literature and educational toys, but also with the skills for using these items to stimulate children's cognitive development.
The Parent-Child Home Program is targeted at families that are challenged by poverty, isolation, and language, literacy, and cultural barriers and that have children aged two at the time of program initiation (however, the curriculum can be used with children as young as 16 months old). The program serves non-native-English-speaking families (the program has been delivered in more than 50 different languages), homeless families, grandparents raising grandchildren, teen parents, foster parents, and families in high-need communities.
Two studies of the Parent-Child Home Program have met PPN criteria for evidence of a promising program.
Madden, O'Hara, and Levenstein (1984) examined the impacts of PCHP on children's IQ scores and maternal behaviors. The study assessed PCHP with a sample of families with children aged 21 to 33 months who lived in one of four suburban areas surrounding New York City from 1973 to 1976. Ninety-five percent of families spoke only English at home, and 88 percent were African-American. There were four cohorts of families, with one cohort per study year. While PCHP program implementation remained consistent across the cohorts, there were some variations in the study methodology from year to year. For example, in 1973, families who agreed to participate in the study were assigned by lottery to receive PCHP (at the time, PCHP was called the "Mother Child Home Program") or to receive no intervention (18 children were in the intervention group, 16 in the control). In 1974, families were assigned by lottery to receive PCHP (N=22 children) or to receive the educational toys and books without any home visiting services (N=26 children). In 1975, the lottery reverted to contrasting PCHP relative to no intervention other than the home study assessments by the researchers (17 children were in the 1975 intervention group, 12 in the control). And in 1976, study families were recruited for an "early screening" program, which included an IQ test, and were then randomly assigned to receive an offer to participate in PCHP (N=29) or to not receive an offer (N=26). This last addition was intended to reduce the chances that comparison families would become aware that they were being compared against families who were receiving PCHP services and thus try to overcompensate for their lack of services in their behavior or responses during the study assessments.
Despite the differences in the study design across the four years of the study, all families in the treatment group were delivered 92 sessions of PCHP over two years, regardless of which of the four parent cohorts they belonged to. All children in the study were administered the Stanford-Binet IQ test at the end of the intervention period. Children in the 1973 to 1975 cohorts were also administered the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) test after the intervention period. All cohort children except the 1975 children were administered the Cattell IQ test prior to the intervention period. Children in the 1973 and 1974 cohorts were also administered the PPVT test before the intervention period. In addition, beginning with the 1974 cohort, the quality of mother-child interactions was assessed after the intervention period using the Maternal Interactive Behavior (MIB) record in an unstructured laboratory setting: Mothers were left alone in a room with their child at a table with small educational props and instructed that the child and mother may choose to play with the props as desired. In addition, the study measured differences between comparison group and PCHP group mean IQ assessment scores, adjusting for pretest differences in IQ assessment score.
Scarr and McCartney (1988) studied a pilot implementation of the PCHP program in Bermuda that began in 1978. In this study, one Bermuda parish offered PCHP to families with children aged 24 to 30 months old. Eligible families were randomly assigned to receive the PCHP intervention or to serve as a control family. The PCHP intervention was offered in 92 sessions (two sessions per week, 23 weeks per year) over the course of two years; however, some families opted to participate in only one session per week in the second year of the program, for a total of 69 sessions. Assessment outcomes included children's Stanford-Binet IQ scores, children's motivation to learn and cooperate, children's ability to delay gratification, children's enthusiasm and ability to respond to their mother's teaching, mothers' discipline techniques, and mothers' teaching abilities. The researchers compared the differences in mean scores on assessment measures between PCHP families and control families, accounting for pretest scores when available. Assessments were conducted prior to the intervention period, when children were 24 to 30 months old, and after the intervention period, when children were 42 to 48 months old. A total of 125 families participated in the study, but due to various circumstances (e.g., family refusing assessment or moving away) only 117 families provided assessments at both time points. Of these, 78 received the PCHP intervention and 39 served as control families. Only 66 of the 78 PCHP families participated in the full program for two years.
Key Evaluation Findings
Madden, O'Hara, and Levenstein (1984) found that, among children in the 1976 cohort, PCHP children scored 5.3 points higher than control children on the Stanford-Binet IQ test at the conclusion of the program (104.9 versus 99.6 mean IQ score). In addition, among 1974 and 1976 cohort families, PCHP mothers had significantly higher Maternal Interactive Behavior scores than comparison mothers. These improvements in parents' verbal behavior as measured by the MIB persisted on follow-up one and two years later. Despite these differences in total frequency of verbal interactions, there were no significant differences between PCHP and the control groups either in nonverbal demonstrations of affection or in verbal praise in any year.
Scarr and McCartney (1988) found that, at the conclusion of the program, children in Bermuda who participated in PCHP had significantly higher scores than the comparison group children on the sorting task taught by their mothers and scored significantly higher on the communication skills test than control children. The study also found that mothers in the Bermuda PCHP group had higher post-test scores on self-reported activity sharing than Bermuda control mothers and were less prone to use pleading as a discipline technique than Bermuda control mothers. The study did not find that PCHP led to improvements in discipline techniques, mothers' teaching abilities, or parents' reporting of child behaviors.
Local partner agencies with an interest in home visiting models, early childhood development, school readiness, and particular target populations, including immigrant families, homeless families, teen parents, and grandparents raising grandchildren.
PCHP local agencies are primarily responsible for obtaining their own funding, with assistance in identifying funding sources, conducting outreach, and writing proposals from the PCHP National Center and PCHP regional staff. PCHP sites access funding from federal, state, and local public agencies, as well as from foundations, corporations, United Way, local service organizations, and local businesses.
Home visitors meet with families twice per week for 23 weeks per year over two years, for a total of 92 sessions. In the first visit per week, the home visitor brings an educational toy or book for the family to keep. The home visitor uses the toy or book to model reading, play, and conversation interactive behaviors that will help stimulate children's intellectual and social-emotional development. The materials remain in the home so that parents can continue these interactive behaviors with their children throughout the week and after the program is completed. At the end of two years, PCHP will have equipped parents with a library of educational toys and books as well as developed the parents' skills for stimulating their own children's intellectual and social-emotional development. In addition to the content of the home visits, as families make their needs and concerns known to program staff, the site coordinator takes an active role in providing referrals and facilitating connections to other community resources and identifying children who have developmental delays and are in need of early intervention and other services.
Play groups, parent groups, workshops, and field trips may be offered to program families, although they are not required.
Parent-Child Home Program sites are staffed with a site coordinator (typically a certified early childhood teacher or a social worker) who has completed an initial three-day Site Coordinator Training Institute and one day of follow-up training (during the first year of implementation) with the PCHP National Center. Site coordinators hire, train, and supervise home visitors on PCHP's core values, curriculum, best practices, and fundamentals. All home visitors must complete a minimum of 16 hours of training prior to beginning home visits and must participate in a two-hour weekly group supervision meeting, where the site coordinator provides ongoing professional development. In addition, all home visitors receive one-on-one supervision from the coordinator. A full-time home visitor can serve up to 16 families, although caseloads of 8-12 families per home visitor are more typical.
The core of the PCHP curriculum is the high-quality books, educational toys, and interactive activities that are the focal point of each home visit and follow an age-related developmental progression. Each site coordinator chooses the curricular materials based on detailed guidelines learned in the Site Coordinator Training Institute. These guidelines allow for customization based on particular language or cultural needs. Each toy, book, or activity has an accompanying curricular guide sheet that is given to the parent, which provides suggestions for additional ways to interact using the curricular material and enrichment activities. The curriculum is designed to guide home visitors in employing strategies that build on parent strengths, increasing positive parenting and the quality and quantity of parent-child verbal interaction. Coordinators are provided by the PCHP national center with a training/curricular toolkit of program manuals, DVDs, and training materials for home visitors.
Issues to Consider
The PCHP program has been examined in at least 15 studies since the late 1960s. Only two studies reviewed by PPN met the criteria for a promising program. The Madden, O'Hara, and Levenstein (1984) study found that PCHP children in only one of four cohorts showed significant increases in IQ test scores; the Scarr and McCartney (1988) study found no program effects on child IQ. In addition, Scarr and McCartney tested 17 child outcomes and 44 maternal outcomes (including sub-scales) and found significant differences on only four of the tested outcomes, two for mothers and two for children.
The PCHP program is currently offered in 14 U.S. states and internationally in Bermuda, Canada, and Ireland.
PCHP National Office:
1415 Kellum Place, Suite 101
Garden City, New York 11530-1690
General information about the Parent-Child Home Program is available at its website, www.parent-child.org. The website includes a program overview, summaries of research supporting the program model, and information about starting up a new PCHP site, becoming a site coordinator, and becoming a PCHP home visitor. The website also provides a list of "favorite" books and educational toys.
Madden, John, John O'Hara, and Phyllis Levenstein, "Home Again: Effects of the Mother-Child Home Program on Mother and Child,"
Vol. 55, No. 2, April 1984, pp. 636-647.
Scarr, Sandra, and Kathleen McCartney, "Far From Home: An Experimental Evaluation of the Mother-Child Home Program in Bermuda," Child Development, Vol. 59, No. 3, June 1988, pp. 531-543.