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New Study on Children’s Mental, Behavioral, and Developmental Disorders

CDC conducts research 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.

Children’s Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Health

CDC is working with other agencies to collect and monitor information about childhood mental disorders and to better understand promote children’s mental, emotional, and behavioral health. Childhood mental disorders, for example attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette syndrome, behavior disorders, mood and anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorders, or substance use disorders, affect many children and families. Because of the impact on children, families, and communities, children’s mental disorders are an important public health issue in the United States.

Read more about children’s mental, emotional, and behavioral health »

Legacy for Children™

Family - dad, mom, and two kids

CDC currently is funding and working on the Legacy for Children™ intervention program. This intervention focuses on 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

The Legacy intervention program was conceived by CDC and a randomized controlled trial was designed 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. Both sites used the same philosophy and goals but adapted the program in different ways.

Read more about the Legacy for Children™ Intervention»

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 to develop and refine the implementation of the Legacy curricula.

Read more about the Miami and Los Angeles Study Sites »
Read more about the sample, approach, and methods for the Legacy for Children™ main study »

NREPP logo

Initial results from the randomized controlled trial 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 the measures »
Read more about behavioral and socioemotional outcomes »

Legacy for Children™ is now included in SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. The summary of the review for this intervention can be viewed here.

Watch Video

Bringing Families Together: Building Community Video

See Legacy for Children™ in action, highlighted in the Head Start Best Practices for Family and Community Engagement Video Series “Bringing Families Together: Building Community Video”

Watch video

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, 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 has been implemented in five Early Head Start programs across four states within Head Start Region IV and CDC is currently working with the Office of Head Start National Centers on Training and Technical Assistance to make Legacy available more broadly within Early Head Start.

CDC is also working with other U.S. Department of Health and Human Services federal partners at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Health Resources and Services Administration to pilot test implementation in Project LAUNCH and Healthy Start .

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

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:

Highlighted Articles

Key Findings: Treatment of Disruptive Behavior Problems – What Works?
Learn about current evidence on the most effective treatments for behavior problems in children
(Published: May 1, 2017)

Key Findings: Factors Associated with Mental, Behavioral, and Developmental Disorders in Early Childhood.
Learn about family, community and health-care factors related to children’s mental, behavioral or developmental disorder
(Published: March 10, 2016)

Key Findings: Reassessing the approach of the Learn the Signs. Act Early. campaign.
Learn about parents’ responses to the Learn the Signs. Act Early materials
(Published: November 18, 2015)

Key Findings: Screening for Developmental Delays Among Young Children
Only 1 in 5 parents say their child received a developmental screen
(Published September 10, 2014)

Key Findings: Behavioral and Socioemotional Outcomes Through Age 5 of the Legacy for Children™ Parenting Program
Learn how the Legacy program affected children
(Published: April 18, 2013)

Helping Children Thrive in Rural Communities
New data on children with mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders in rural and urban areas.
(Published: March 16, 2017)

Parenting Matters
Parents are among the most important people in the lives of young children.
(Published: January 4, 2017)

Supporting Behavioral Health
Learn what CDC doing to support behavioral health services for children who need them.
(Published: May 4, 2016)

Improving Children’s Behavioral Health
Learn what CDC is doing about gaps in behavioral treatment for children.
(Published: May 4, 2015)

Newborn Screening is Important for Your Baby
Soon after birth, babies born in the United States are checked for certain medical conditions.
(Published: September 14, 2014)

Children’s Mental Health Report
Learn about the CDC report that describes federal activities that track U.S. children’s mental disorders.
(Published: May 16, 2013)