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The Effective Provision of Preschool Education
(EPPE) Project involved nearly 3,000 children and 141 centers from five regions in England. Children were
recruited from six types of service settings, such as nursery school, playgroup, or day care. Social and
behavioral development over the preschool period was analyzed by measuring change in social behavior
from entry to the study (primarily 3-year-olds) to start of primary school (primarily 5-year-olds).

Classroom teachers rated the children who attended preschool centers significantly higher on measures of
independence and concentration, cooperation and conformity, and peer sociability compared to children
who remained home. At entry to primary grades, effect sizes (measured in standard deviations) for 1-2
years of preschool attendance ranged from .11 for cooperation and conformity to .36 for peer sociability,
after controlling for child, parent, and home characteristics.
In general, children in higher quality programs benefited more. In particular, developmental gains in
cooperation and conformity were stronger if children were enrolled in programs with highly qualified
staff, or in programs that scored well on “language and reasoning” and “social interaction” subscales of
the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (a measure commonly used to assess the quality of early
childhood programs). Children in centers with highly qualified staff also showed reduced anti-social/
worried behavior.
In general, the researchers found that the more time children spent in preschool, the more social benefits
they enjoyed, although it appeared that children who were enrolled in preschool for an extended time
(more than 3 years) showed some increased anti-social/worried behavior. The quality of the program made
a difference, such that the problematic behavior levels were lower in high-quality programs, although
those levels were still higher than for children who spent less time in care. This evidence is consistent with
the findings of the NICHD and Abecedarian studies, but places this one negative result in the context of
other more positive effects on social and emotional development because of the broader set of outcome
measures used.


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