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The Abecedarian Early Intervention Project was a controlled scientific experiment that was conducted in 1972 in North Carolina, United States, by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute to study the potential benefits of early childhood education for poor children to enhance school readiness. It has been found that in their earliest school years, poor children lag behind others, suggesting the fact that they were ill-prepared for schooling. [1] The Abecedarian project was inspired by the fact that few other early childhood programs could provide a sufficiently well-controlled environment to determine the effectiveness of early childhood training.

The Project[]

111 infants born between 1972 and 1977 participated in this project, 57 of which were given high-quality childcare while another 54 acted as a control group. 98% of the children who participated in this experiment were African-American, with the average age of participants being 4.4 months upon participation. [2] Whereas other childhood programs commenced from 2 years old onwards, the Abecedarian Project started from infancy and continued for a period of 5 years, a period longer than most other programs. The participants received child care for 6 - 8 hours a day, five days a week. Educational activities were game-based, and emphasized on language. The control group was provided with nutritional supplements, social work services and medical care to ensure that these factors do not affect the outcomes of the experiment. [3]

Significant findings[]

Follow-up assessment of the participants involved in the project has since been completed. Progress was monitored at ages 3, 4, 5, 6.5, 8, 12, 15 and 21. [4]. The areas covered were cognitive functioning, academic skills, educational attainment, employment, parenthood, and social adjustment. The significant findings of the experiment were as follows: [5]

  • higher cognitive test scores due to enhanced language development
  • higher academic achievement in both reading and mathematics
  • more likely to attend college
  • later childbearing.

The project concluded that high quality, educational childcare from early infancy was therefore of utmost importance.


  1. Alexander, K. L., & Entwisle, D. R. (1988). Achievement in the first 2 years of school: Patterns and processes. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 53 (Serial No. 218)
  2. Child Trends: Guide to Effective Programs for Children and Youth
  3. Ramey & Campbell, 1991
  4. Campbell, Pungello, Miller-Johnson, Burchinal, & Ramey, 2001
  5. The Calorina Abecedarian Project
de:Abecedarian Early Intervention Project
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