Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Power PATH: Integrated Two-Generation Social Emotional Intervention for Head Start Preschoolers and Their Parents

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 2:05 PM
Merrick II (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Caroline Boxmeyer1, Ansley Gilpin1, Jason DeCaro1, John Lochman1, Lixin Qu1, Qshequilla Mitchell1 and Stacey Snead2, (1)The University of Alabama, (2)Community Service Programs of West Alabama
Low-income parents have relatively high rates of mental health concerns (e.g., depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use) compared to more socioeconomically advantaged parents, and these can be attributable in large part to the chronic stress they face (ACF, 2001, 2002; Knitzer, 2001; Liaw & Brooks-Gunn, 1994). Parents experiencing such problems can encounter greater difficulty forming healthy attachments with their children (Biglan, Flay, Embry, & Sandler, 2012; Toth, Rogosch, Manly, & Cicchetti, 2006), providing cognitive stimulation (Mendelsohn et al., 2007) and responsive care (Landry, Smith, Swank, & Guttentag, 2008), and modeling effective social-emotional skills. Coordinated parent and child social-emotional interventions hold particular promise for promoting positive parenting and healthy child development among low-income families, and Head Start provides an ideal platform for testing these interventions and creating an evidence base for the field.

This paper examines whether Power PATH, an integrated classroom and parent social-emotional curriculum, can be successfully implemented in Head Start settings, and whether it leads to significant improvements in child school-readiness and family well-being. Power PATH combines the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (Preschool PATHS) social-emotional classroom curriculum for children (Domitrovich, Greenberg, Cortes, & Kusche, 1999) with the Coping Power parent program (Wells, Lochman & Lenhart, 2008). The curricula each have an existing evidence-base for improving social-emotional functioning in children (Bierman et al., 2008; 2012; Domitrovich & Greenberg, 2007; Morris et al., 2014) and parents (e.g.,  Lochman & Wells, 2003, 2004; Lochman et al., 2006), respectively. The coordinated parent-child curriculum is designed to: create positive, consistent home and classroom environments; improve child and parent emotional self-regulation and interpersonal skills; and increase natural social supports. While Power PATH does not directly target parent employment or financial income, it is designed to enhance their social-emotional skills and resources, which are foundational to educational and financial attainment.

The large, experimental study is being conducted in collaboration with a community action program that administers Head Start preschools in seven counties in Alabama. The study sample is predominantly Black/African American (75%) and from rural to semi-rural areas. Twenty-six classrooms across nine Head Start centers were randomly assigned (by center) to receive Power PATH or Head Start-as-usual. Initial pilot testing yielded evidence of strong, positive impacts. This paper will present findings from the first intervention cohort (n=117) in the following domains: implementation of Power PATH in Head Start preschools; program effects on children (cognitive and executive function skills, emotional and behavioral self-regulation, stress physiology) and parents/families (parental stress and mental health, emotional self-regulation, executive function, social support, educational and employment status, and financial well-being); and participant perceptions of Power PATH, including its sustainability in Head Start settings. Experimental impact findings will provide compelling evidence of whether Power PATH can serve as a valuable resource for improving low-income parent and child social-emotional functioning in an integrated way.