The effectiveness of early intervention with young children "at risk": A decade in review

Janet Linda Mentore, Fordham University


The goal of this meta-analysis was to synthesize research on the effectiveness of early intervention programs with children at-risk and to examine the contributions of specific mediating variables to these programs. Overall, 86 studies from 1986 through 1998 were examined. A total of 319 effect sizes were yielded from the total sample, and 185 effect sizes were yielded from the sample of high quality studies. Three levels of analyses were employed in this study. The primary analysis assessed the overall efficacy of early intervention for at-risk children. This analysis indicated that early intervention programs are efficacious for at-risk children and did not reveal any significant differences between specific types of early intervention programs (i.e., educational, psychological, medical, and mixed). The secondary analysis explored specific program variables that have contributed to efficacy. This analysis indicated that efficacious programs were those that were structured and utilized trained intervenors. This analysis also showed that early intervention programs were more effective for low birthweight/premature children than economically/socially disadvantaged children. There were several variables that did not contribute to early intervention efficacy. Less intense programs were found to be as effective as more intense programs. Similarly, there was no evidence to suggest that early intervention programs with a longer duration were more effective. The location of the early intervention program, degree of parental involvement, and time period of study also did not impact efficacy. There was inconclusive evidence regarding whether there was a specific age when early intervention programs were most effective. The third level of analysis was conducted separately from the meta-analysis. This analysis assessed whether early intervention studies utilized non-traditional (e.g., adaptive behavior, attachment) outcome measures over time. This analysis revealed that within the past decade, non-traditional measures have been used as frequently as traditional measures. In sum, these findings provide more definitive conclusions on the positive impact of early intervention programs for this newer at-risk population, and there are several mediating variables impacting efficacy. This study also revealed that early intervention studies have kept abreast of the research demands of this field by the utilization of non-traditional outcome measures.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Mentore, Janet Linda, "The effectiveness of early intervention with young children "at risk": A decade in review" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9938912.