The Fast Track program of early intervention in children and teens “can significantly reduce adult psychopathology and violent crime,” according to a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The program took ten years, involved comprehensive, ongoing interventions of many different kinds with students, teachers and families, cost $58,000 per child, and ultimately produced a 10% improvement in the intervention group over controls. Study co-author Kenneth Dodge admitted to Psychiatric News that it was not the most efficient program, but said, “Our goal, first and foremost, was to demonstrate that early intervention works.”
According to Psychiatric News, “Early-intervention programs to foster proper social behavior in young children have shown some short-term benefits, but none yet have reported long-lasting effects.” So the study of the Fast Track program, involving about 900 children at four US sites and researchers from a number of universities has been an ongoing effort since 1991 to provide that evidence.
Half the children were separated into a control group. For the other half, the intervention program involved regular social skills training, parent behavior-management training with home visits, peer coaching, weekly reading tutoring, specialized teacher assistance and training, and classroom social-emotional curricula. Participants were then rated by themselves and by a peer as to whether or not they had any of a range of behavior, substance abuse or psychological problems. In the most recent follow-up, “69% of participants in the control arm displayed at least one externalizing, internalizing, or substance abuse psychiatric problem (based on self- or peer interview) at age 25, in contrast with 59% of those assigned to intervention,” reported the researchers.
“The most important conclusion from this study is that a comprehensive, multicomponent developmental science-based intervention targeted toward early-starting conduct-problem children can significantly reduce adult psychopathology and violent crime,” wrote the researchers. “The findings run counter to claims that prevention fails, made by advocates of cuts to federal funding for prevention…” Some of the authors of the study also designed the program and disclosed holding publishing and royalty arrangements for some of the program materials.
Early Intervention for At-Risk Youth Has Benefits Into Adulthood (Psychiatric News, October 16, 2014)
(Abstract) Impact of Early Intervention on Psychopathology, Crime, and Well-Being at Age 25 (Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. Am J Psychiatry 2014. Published online ahead of print September 15, 2014. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.13060786)