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Origin of the Child Development Project

The Child Development Project (CDP) is a multi-site, longitudinal research program aimed at learning more about the processes involved in child and adolescent development. The study emphasizes research on social, emotional and scholastic development of children and adolescents as well as how various family, peer, school and neighborhood factors impact development. The project commenced in the summer of 1987, with a second cohort recruited in the summer of 1988. Since year one of the project, yearly assessments have been conducted with participants, their families, and their friends. Currently the CDP is in its 20th year of data collection. The Child Development Project (CDP) was inaugurated in 1987 by researchers John Bates at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN; Kenneth Dodge at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN (now at Duke University, Durham, NC); and Gregory Pettit at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN (now at Auburn University, Auburn, AL). The goal of this multi-site longitudinal project was to study the various family, child, peer, neighborhood, and school factors that influence the social, behavioral, and scholastic development of children.

 

Participants

In 1987 and 1988, five hundred and eighty-five families from a community sample were contacted during kindergarten pre-registration, or at the beginning of the school year, and invited to participate in the study. Participants were approximately 5 years old at the commencement of the project. Information has been gathered from these families through interviews, observations, and questionnaires completed by the participating children, their parent(s), peers, and teachers. Because data have been gathered about these individuals and their families nearly every year since 1987-1988, a tremendous amount of information is now available to study from these individuals and their families.

Areas of Research Interest

Over the course of the study, a large number of journal articles and book chapters have been published using the information gathered in the CDP.  These published works have covered a diversity of topics including child temperament, friendships, peer groups, bullies, after-school care, the onset of puberty, adolescent identity development, parent-child interactions, parents’ and children’s social cognition, positive and negative parenting techniques, marital relationships, and neighborhood safety.

Since the inception of the CDP, the project directors and staff have seen the preschool children grow into young adults and have learned much about their development. Drawing upon the large amount of information collected from the participating families, the CDP staff intends to continue to contribute to the understanding of human development by continuing to report research findings drawn from this ongoing study.

There are number of ongoing research projects based on the CDP data. One such project is the study of the intergenerational continuity in educational attainment which seeks to examine whether mothers' level of educational attainment would predict their children's education attainment. We wish to explain the mediators and moderators within family socio-demographic as well as parenting and child behavior domains that may weaken this risk factor of lower education level of mothers on the child's education level. Another ongoing project concerns the relationship between antosocial behavior (in terms of overt versus covert forms of such behavior),and the differential role of positive and negative parenting in the prediction of these forms of aggressive behavior from early childhood to adolescence.

Transitions in parental marital status is another domain of interest being explored. This study aims to examine the transitions in parental marital status from early childhood to early adolescence and child externalizing behavior outcomes. The study seeks to answer the question of whether the transition from single parent status to married parent status during early adolescence reduces the risk for adolescent adjustment problems. Graduate student Day Halsey is currently working on a study that aims to explore the developmental antecendents of adolescent parenthood by inspecting the role of father absence and being born to a teenage parent.

Acknowledgments

A large-scale study like this is only possible through the tremendous commitment and investment of time and patience on the part of the participants and their families.  Additionally, this study would not be possible without the hard work put into the project by the researchers and the research staff involved at the three research sites.  It is also important to recognize the financial support  provided by research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD).