According to a study recorded by the popular Science outlet, preschool may just be the answer to nipping crime in the bud.
Time reports that the Science study followed over 1,500 Chicago kids born in the late 70s and early 80s from the city’s worst neighborhoods. More than half of the children came from families that were a part of the Child-Parent Center Education Program — a federally funded preschool program in Illinois that’s been around for decades. Comparatively, the other children in the study did not attend preschool, instead participating only in kindergarten. These kids were recorded for almost 30 years, and when they turned 28, results of the study were tallied, calculated, and summarized.
The findings were, according to one researcher, eye-opening.
According to the results, study participants that had attended the preschool classes were found to be, on average, 28 percent less likely to “develop alcohol or other drug problems.” They also were almost 30 percent less likely to end up incarcerated than those who skipped preschool altogether. Additionally, the odds of arrest for preschool attendees were 22 percent lower than their counterparts — and they were almost 25 percent more likely to attend a university after high school graduation. Annual income levels were also substantially higher than their peers who didn’t attend preschool.
In reference to whether these results mean we should dump more money into the preschool system, Arthur Reynolds, a lead researcher in the study, indicates that it wasn’t just preschool that made the difference for the participants in the study.
“We don’t see these kind of results from routine programs implemented on a large scale. Just funding preschool doesn’t mean it’s going to be effective. You have to follow the principles of quality.”
According to Reynolds, that aspect of quality means taking the time to train teachers and endorse a nurturing and engaging environment for preschool-aged kids. In looking back at the results, researchers surmise that the community feel to the preschool program they studied, in addition to significant parental involvement, helped promote a positive atmosphere for attendees.
That summary seems to have been accurate, as records indicate that the number of parents in the study who frequently transferred their kids from school to school was 50 percent lower than the average. Keeping kids at a particular school instead of uprooting them often seems to correlate positively with future academic and workplace success.
“School mobility is associated with dropout and other problem behavior. These children experienced fewer transitions. The families were more satisfied and less likely to change schools. Another mechanism is that stability and predictability in the learning [environment is] a key feature in positive child development outcomes.”
Other interesting tidbits of information from the study include the fact that boys from families with the least educated parents seemed to experience the most positive gains. Reynolds indicates that this may very well have been because boys tend to be less ready for the first few years of school than their female counterparts. Putting them in a challenging preschool environment may have better prepared them for success. These particular kids were also the most at-risk when it comes to the justice system due to their gender and their families’ scant educational backgrounds. Their significant disadvantages may have made it easier for them to excel statistically.
With this study, lawmakers and state governments alike now have a new way to combat the rising crime rate in America. Some states, like Minnesota, have already hopped on the bandwagon for more preschool funding. Reports indicate that the midwestern state joined a national campaign a few years ago to increase preschool program funding to $75 billion over the next decade. With the positive correlation between preschool and decreased crime, increased college graduation rates, and a better job outlook, more states are expected to join the campaign soon.
As Chris Beakey, communications director at preschool advocate Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, says, “This is the year for preschool.”
[Featured Image by Matt Cardy/Getty Images]