Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in INFANT MENTAL HEALTH JOURNAL, Vol. 28(2), 151–170 (2007) © 2007 Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health This article is a U.S. government work and, as such, is in the public domain in the United States of America. Published online in Wiley InterScience (


The Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project, a random-assignment evaluation, found a broad pattern of positive impacts for children and families. However, there were no program impacts on depression or use of mental health services by the time children reached age 3, at the end of the Early Head Start (EHS) program. This paper presents recent findings from the follow-up study in the spring prior to the children entering kindergarten, when a positive program impact emerged for reducing maternal depression. Results show that earlier program impacts on children and parents (when children were 2 and 3 years of age) mediated, or led to, the delayed impact on maternal depression. The combination of the most promising child factors accounted for over 57% of the later impact on depression, while the most promising parent factors accounted for over 35% of the later impact on depression. Implications for EHS programs are discussed.