Early Childhood Interventions network member Orla Doyle recently sat down with HCEO to discuss the Preparing for Life program, which has released its' Phase I results. Doyle is the principal investigator of the PFL program, one of the first and the longest-running experimental early children intervention program in Ireland.

PFL aims to improve school readiness in children in disadvantaged areas of Dublin. Families joined the program during pregnancy and were assigned to a low- or high-treatment group. The high-treatment group consisted of: mentoring through regular home visits until the child started school at age 4 or 5, participation in the Triple P Positive Parenting Program, and baby massage classes during the baby's first year.

Doyle was interested in investigating how socioeconomic inequalities in children's skills can be reduced through early intervention programs. The Phase I results from PFL show that children who participated in the high-treatment group had improved cognitive development. "Children who had the high treatment...they had higher cognitive skills, they had more-developed socio-emotional skills, less behavioral problems, and they're also healthier," Doyle said. "The Preparing for Life program was an effective method of trying to improve school readiness among disadvantaged children," she said.

PFL was unique in that Doyle and her team were able to shape the program before it was implemented, rather than simply evaluating the impact after it was completed. "I think economists, by working with other disciplines, can really try to address the issue of whether interventions work and why interventions work," she said.

"This type of work is important. It has the capacity to have a real impact on real people. Not only the people who are participating in the trial...but also other families who may end up receiving this treatment because of the results that we show through our work," Doyle said.

Professor Doyle is a lecturer at the University College Dublin School of Economics and a Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the UCD Geary Institute.  She received her Ph.D. in Economics from Trinity College Dublin. You can find more information about the Preparing for Life program here.