Early Steps Multisite Study

The Early Steps Project is an ongoing, longitudinal study of 731 ethnically-diverse families from urban (Pittsburgh, PA), suburban (Eugene, OR), and rural (Charlottesville, VA) sites. Families were recruited when children were 2 years old, and at recruitment, all families displayed sociodemographic, family, and child risk factors, suggesting that this cohort of children are at high risk for displaying trajectories of conduct problems (CP) and later drug use.

 The Early Steps Multisite study builds on the Pitt Early Steps Pilot Study to examine the efficacy of the Family Check-Up (FCU) intervention in this sample from ages 2 to 19, with intervention ending when children were age 10.5. The study consists of regular home assessments and treatment sessions with families who were randomly assigned to the intervention group.  The families were previously assessed annually when children were ages 2 to 5 years old and 7.5 to 16 years old. Ongoing follow-ups are taking place when youth are age 19 and in response to COVID-19, involving remote assessments of youth functioning and effects of the pandemic on youth and parent functioning.

In the current study, impressive intervention effects of the FCU have been found through middle childhood and adolescence on such child outcomes as conduct and emotional problems, inhibitory control, language development, academic achievement, peer rejection, suicide risk, and substance use, as well as maternal depression and social support. 

In the current follow-up, we seek to understand whether these intervention effects will continue to be found for substance use, antisocial behavior and high-risk sexual behavior, as well as mental health and prosocial functioning at age 19. In addition, we will be examining whether intervention effects will be moderated by neighborhood deprivation (i.e., weakened effects in higher-risk neighborhoods) and genetic susceptibility.