Lindsay Chase-Lansdale Researches Parental Education for Kids' Success

Lindsay Chase-Lansdale Researches Parental Education for Kids' Success

Lindsay Chase-Lansdale

As parents face the challenges of economic hardship, young children growing up in low-income homes often lack stability in their daily lives and fall behind in their school attendance and development. With a new forward-thinking research project, SESP professor Lindsay Chase-Lansdale continues her work to improve outcomes for preschoolers growing up in poverty — by encouraging parents’ postsecondary education and career training.

Exploring a new model for social policy, her latest project looks at a way to benefit families by combining job training for parents with high-quality early education for kids. She is assessing a dual-generation program known as CareerAdvance, developed by the Community Action Project of Tulsa, Oklahoma (CAP) and researchers Christopher King and Robert Glover at University of Texas-Austin. The program helps low-income parents of preschoolers start careers in the field of healthcare that can support families and lead to positive outcomes for children.

Over the next five years, Chase-Lansdale and her colleagues at Northwestern, Columbia, Harvard and University of Texas-Austin will evaluate how well the intended outcomes of the program are met. Through interviews with 480 parents and assessments of their children, the investigators will determine how fully parents develop careers to support their families, increase their self-confidence, and model behaviors conducive to school and work success. In addition, they will examine changes in families’ economic stability, children’s school attendance, and children’s cognitive and social development.

Chase-Lansdale’s investigation builds on recent studies showing that if low-income parents increase their education and household income, children show gains in academics and behavior. In fact, her latest research finds that early childhood education programs can be valuable springboards for encouraging parental postsecondary education. “Low-income parents who observe their children thriving in an early childhood center and who experience the trusting, supportive community of staff and peers at the center may be more motivated and more persistent in pursuing education and job-training programs in this context,” says Chase-Lansdale.

“The parents of the children whom we are studying are enrolled in CAP's high-quality early education centers, and so parents’ participation in CareerAdvance gives them the time, support, and focus to pursue further studies. Our previous work provides evidence for early childhood education as a promising platform for adult education and workforce training,” says Northwestern research scientist Teresa Eckrich Sommer, who works with Chase-Lansdale. Early childhood education centers may be ideal for promoting young parents’ postsecondary education because they intervene at a critical time for parents to be motivated by their young children and an optimal time for children’s development, the researchers say.

CareerAdvance seeks to credential parents for high-demand health careers including nursing, medical assistant, medical coder and health information technologist. To accomplish its goals, the program partners with local community colleges and workforce boards and also builds in peer support networks, incentives for successful performance, and a comprehensive support system. The program is based on the assumption that as parents pursue their education and model study habits, they will encourage their children’s educational success. The five-year CareerAdvance research project is funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Chase-Lansdale is an expert on the interface between research and social policy for children and families, specializing in multidisciplinary research on social issues and how they affect family functioning and the development of children, youth and adults. She is a fellow in the American Psychological Association and in the Association of Psychological Science, and she chairs the board of directors of the Foundation for Child Development, the Visiting Committee of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the NIH Study Section on Social Sciences and Population Studies. In 2004 she was awarded the Society for Research on Adolescence Social Policy Award and the Martin E. and Gertrude G. Walder Award for Research Excellence at Northwestern. Books she has co-edited include Human Development Across Lives and Generations and For Better and Worse: Welfare Reform and the Well-Being of Children and Families..

Chase-Lansdale’s research collaborators on the CareerAdvance study, in addition to Sommer, are Jeanne Brooks-Gunn of Columbia University, Christopher King and Robert Glover of University of Texas, and Hiro Yoshikawa of Harvard University.
By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 11/6/12