sealPurdue News

April 19, 2002

Purdue research studies Early Head Start programs

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Education professionals have long acknowledged the significance of the relationship between teachers and parents in the education of children, and an ongoing Purdue University study is examining that relationship at one the earliest points it can be formed – infancy.

James Elicker, a professor of developmental studies at Purdue, is working with three central Indiana Head Start programs to examine how interpersonal relationships between staff and family members impact outcomes for Early Head Start children and their parents.

"Research and practice consistently demonstrate that early intervention enhances children's physical, social, emotional and cognitive development, " Elicker says. "It also enables parents to be better caregivers and teachers to their children, and in many cases assists them with reaching their own goals of financial independence. Our study will focus on how the relationships between staff and families factor into Head Start's mission."

Early Head Start grew out of the success of the original Head Start Program, which was created in 1965 to help low-income children ages 3-5 prepare for public school. Early Head Start, first authorized by Congress in 1994, targets children from birth to 3 years old and also provides prenatal programs for parents-to-be.

During the first year of the three-year study, which is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services' Head Start Bureau, researchers are conducting qualitative in-depth interviews with 30 Early Head Start parents selected to represent diversity in ethnicity, income level, employment and involvement in the partnering Head Start programs.

In the second and third years, Elicker and his team will conduct a longitudinal study with a sample of 100 Early Head Start families in Lafayette, Kokomo and Marion.

"Our plan is to follow 40 families for one year and 60 families for two full years," Elicker says. "We will be looking specifically at the relationships that develop between Head Start staff and these families. Not a lot is known about these relationships – what kind they are and how they are helpful – even though many staff members and participants believe it is one of the most important components of Head Start. We hope the information that our study develops will help Head Start programs increase the effectiveness of their services to families and children."

Writer: Sharon A. Bowker, (765) 494-9723,

Sources: James Elicker, (765) 494-2938,

Anita Fisher, Lafayette Early Head Start director, (765) (765) 449-0487,

Carol Morrison, Kokomo Early Head Start director, (765) 457-8273,

Wilma Pilkin, Marion Early Head Start director, (765) 668-8961,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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