Research on At-Risk Children and Youth

Inmate Tyrone Parker high-fives his son Tyrone Parker Jr. during a special Father's Day visit part of the "Get On The Bus" program at California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, California May 30, 2015, photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Inmate Tyrone Parker high-fives his son Tyrone Parker Jr. during a Father's Day visit at California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, California.

Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

For more than two decades, RAND research has examined issues affecting vulnerable children and youth, including the child-, family-, and community-level factors that place then at risk and how various programs from the prenatal period through adolescence can counteract these disadvantages and improve their well-being. Risk factors include low family income; exposure to trauma as a result of experience with an incarcerated parent, family violence, or a natural disaster; and other adverse early childhood experiences (ACEs).

One area of focus has been early childhood programs such as home visiting, parent education, and high-quality preschool. RAND studies have examined access to and utilization of such programs, approaches to quality improvement, their near-term and longer-run effectiveness, and the economic returns from investing in these early interventions. Other research has assessed programs in the early elementary grades, such as preschool-to-third-grade (P–3) initiatives.

In collaboration with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the University of California Los Angeles, RAND researchers also developed a nationally known cognitive-behavioral intervention to mitigate the effects of trauma on children—the Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS). Through studies on families as well as community resilience, we have conducted studies and proposed solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous, so that children and youth in those communities can thrive.

  • Lynn Karoly

    Lynn Karoly on the Return on Early Childhood Investment

    In this 60 Second Lecture from the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, Lynn Karoly, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, discusses the return on philanthropic investments in early childhood programs.

  • Preschool teachers or caregivers reading to children

    Investing in Kids Can Yield High Returns: Q&A with Lynn A. Karoly

    There is strong evidence of large potential economic returns to investing in high quality early childhood programs, but that doesn't mean that every program will generate equally large returns. Many programs likely have a “threshold” of quality and intensity that needs to be achieved in order to register positive returns.

  • Teacher and children in school

    How Early Childhood Education and Care Can Help to Tackle the Impact of Childhood Disadvantage

    Disadvantaged children underperform educationally partly because on average they experience more risk factors. Interventions to address multiple causes of underperformance for disadvantaged children may have a better chance of success. The calibre of early childhood education and care professionals also likely matters.