Long-term effectiveness of early intervention
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Research supports that adaptation in young adulthood (e.g., employment status and educational attainment) is influenced by a number of risk and protective factors which are distal (contextual and farther removed from outcomes) and proximal (individual and intermediary to outcomes). The degree to which proximal risk and protection mediates the relation between distal/contextual factors and young adult outcomes was examined among participants in a longitudinal study of minority youth who grew up in a poor urban community. Mother’s reports of depression and family income (poverty), when participants were children and adolescents, served as indicators of distal risk factors, whereas reported family living situation (family structure) in childhood and adolescence was used to indicate a protective factor. School and community center assessments of intelligence in the first through third grades were indicators of proximal protection whereas mother reports of ‘child adaptation’ (items measuring disruptive and inattentive behavior) and school reports of first grade attendance indicated proximal risk. The integral goal of the research was to examine the role of community-based intervention in early childhood (which more than half of participants received) as it potentially moderates and changes the distal-proximal-outcome relation. A method of testing mediator and moderator effects through multiple regression was used (cf. Baron & Kenny, 1986). Results supported neither the mediator model of distal and proximal factors as they influenced outcomes, nor a moderating influence of early intervention. These findings point to the utility of rigorous empirical tests, e.g., the Sobel (1990) test, of mediation as well as the need for systematic, goal-directed, implementation of early, community-based intervention.