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Family - dad, mom, and two kidsCDC conducts research and tracking to learn more about healthy child development and to better understand certain specific conditions that affect children. This information is used to create health education and intervention programs, help communities plan for services, and determine what additional studies are needed.

Investing in our children is investing in our future. Early childhood investment can reduce social costs. This includes tangible costs such as special education, foster care, welfare, medical care, law enforcement, social security, and social services, and intangible costs such as physical and emotional pain experienced by children with developmental delays and their families.

Legacy for Children™

CDC currently is funding and working on a study called Legacy for Children™. This study is looking at the role of parents and ways that they can positively influence their children. Activities are designed to enhance sensitive and responsive parenting and parent–child interaction, and to promote a sense of community. Legacy's goal is to have children grow up emotionally healthy and ready to be productive members of society.

Main Study

Legacy was conceived by CDC and designed as a randomized controlled trial to test the idea that the Legacy intervention during early childhood might improve children’s development. Legacy is a model that allows for site-specific adaptation rather than a prescribed, standardized program. Two sites―one in Miami, Florida, the other in Los Angeles, California―were selected to develop and evaluate the intervention and the extent to which it could be adapted to the needs of other specific sites.

Each site targeted a low-income population of mothers and children. The intervention began before birth in Los Angeles and at birth in Miami, and lasted until children were 3 or 5 years of age, respectively. Legacy at these sites had both a pilot phase and a main study phase. This study led to the development and implementation of the Legacy curricula.

Initial results revealed Legacy had an overall positive effect on children living in poverty. There were significant effects on the child’s thinking, learning, and behavior, and on the interaction between the mother and child. 

Read more about behavioral and socioemotional outcomes »

Follow-Up Study

A follow-up study of Legacy currently is under way. The purpose of the follow-up study is to find out how Legacy affects the long-term health and well-being of children. Researchers are following children who were part of the main study 3 to 5 years later when they are in third grade, and measuring their progress. The researchers are looking at the children’s learning and thinking ability; school performance; behavior; social skills; and emotional, mental, and physical health. The study also will provide estimates of the broader effects and benefits of Legacy on society, such as on the social services, education, juvenile justice, and physical and mental health care systems.

Feasibility Study

CDC and the Administration for Children and Families (which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) are partnering to translate research to practice by integrating Legacy into Early Head Start programs. The Legacy model is currently being implemented in five Early Head Start programs across four states within Head Start Region IV.

Read more about bringing Legacy to communities » PDF [10 MB]

For More Information

Legacy for Children™ »
Miami and Los Angeles Study Sites (main study and longitudinal study) »

Learning About Specific Conditions

CDC conducts research and tracking of certain birth defects, disabilities, and blood disorders that affect children. Click on the following links to learn more: