The Abecedarian Project

The Abecedarian Project was a scientific study that had the potential benefits of early childhood education for children from low-income families. The study occurred in 1972 in North Carolina and provided children below the age of five years old with educational childcare and a quality preschool. The experts conducting the research observed the children the whole day for a full year. The teacher-child ratio ranged from 1:3 for infants to 1:6 for children of up to five years old, which was significantly below the standard levels. The intervention used a curriculum of educational games while focusing on social, emotional, and cognitive skills. The annual cost of the study was estimated to be $ 19,000 per child based on the 2017 dollar valuation. The researchers realized that significant effects on educational achievement, employment, and other essential life outcomes were well-sustained in maturity.


A follow-up study on the project indicates that non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes are more prevalent among individuals who experience adverse early childhood conditions (Kelly, 2015). The study suggests that one way of preventing expensive chronic diseases is by shaping the process of Childhood development from birth to age five (Sparling & Meunier, 2019). The study also indicated that children who get quality early childhood development grow up into adults with improved physical health. It was noted that male participants had a lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure and were less likely to experience blood pressure. On the other hand, female participants had reduced chances of falling into the pre-hypertension group. Moreover, males indicated to have significant levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, and they rarely experienced signs of metabolic hypertension, obesity, and dyslipidemia (Campbell, Pan & Burchinal, 2019). Female participants also proved to be less likely to develop abdominal obesity.      

Furthermore, the study indicated a positive relationship between the quality of early childhood and healthy behaviors. Lifestyles have a high impact on preventing and managing chronic diseases (Sparling & Meunier, 2019). Research findings suggested that the quality of early childhood development leads to healthy lifestyle behaviors. Female participants of the study were highly unlikely to start drinking before attaining the legal age of eighteen years. They were more likely to live healthy lifestyles like engaging in physical activity and eat nutritious food at the age of 21 (Kelly, 2015). Similarly, male participants took long before beginning to smoke either cigarettes or marijuana.

The research also provided evidence that quality early childhood development programs facilitated improved economic and social outcomes of individuals when they grow up (Ramey, 2018). The results could be attributed to the fact that they are less likely to start taking drugs as teenagers, have good physical health, and are well-behaved. They t therefore grow up into healthy and reliable individuals capable of working and being productive in society.

The Abecedarian project was of great significance to society and especially educators, as it demonstrated the importance of long-lasting advantages associated with quality early childhood programs. Educators learn that giving children below the age of five a quality education program helps to prevent limits the chances of the individuals contracting chronic diseases during adulthood. As a result, they understand the need to make quality healthy child development an essential part of the healthcare reforms, especially among households that receive Medicaid and CHIP. Educators also learn that quality early childhood programs commence with effective perinatal care for mothers and should thus begin at birth. Consequently, they see the importance of integrating health and nutrition into early childhood development programs because early health plays a vital role in adult health outcomes.  


Campbell, F. A., Pan, Y., & Burchinal, M. (2019). 12 Sustaining Gains from Early Childhood Intervention: The Abecedarian Program. Sustaining Early Childhood Learning Gains: Program, School, and Family Influences, 268.

Kelly, P. (2015). City of Literature… it all starts with ABCD! The City of Melbourne and the Abecedarian Approach. Library Services from Birth to Five: Delivering the Best Start, 65.

Ramey, C. T. (2018). The Abecedarian approach to social, educational, and health disparities. Clinical child and family psychology review, 21(4), 527-544.

Sparling, J., & Meunier, K. (2019). Abecedarian: An Early Childhood Education Approach that has a Rich History and a Vibrant Present. International Journal of Early Childhood, 51(2), 207-216.

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