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Syracuse Family Development Research Program

Ages 5-10

Rating: Level 2


The Syracuse Family Development Research Program (SFDRP) is designed to bolster child and family functioning and interpersonal relationships through home visitations, parent training, and individualized daycare. The intervention targets African-American, single-parent, economically disadvantaged families beginning before birth of the baby and lasting through the preschool years, to improve the child’s cognitive, language, prosocial, motoric, emotional, and nutritional functioning—as well as to foster child’s positive social outlooks and decrease the probability of juvenile delinquency in his or her later years.

Program participants receive individualized training and support from paraprofessional child development trainers who make weekly home visitations. These trainers help mothers create developmentally appropriate and interactive games for their children, act as liaisons between participants and other support services, foster mothers’ involvement in children’s educational attainment, and model appropriate interactions with children. In addition, the families are provided with 5 years of daycare services run by highly trained staff.


The program was evaluated with longitudinal data from a 10-year follow-up study. The evaluation used a nonequivalent control-group quasi-experimental design with pretest and posttest measures. The sample included 216 children, with 108 in the treatment group and 108 matched controls. The follow-up study located 65 program families and 54 control families. Data was collected from school records, court records, and probation department records. Interviews were conducted with the children in the study and with their parents. Parents also completed demographic data forms and filled out questionnaires.

The existing evaluation research on this program is limited by several factors: The program has not been replicated. There was relatively high attrition of families in the initial studies, which may have led to a positive bias in the follow-up results. And allocation to treatment and control groups was not randomized.


The evaluation results showed a reduction in juvenile delinquency and improved school functioning. Children in the program also demonstrated more positive self-ratings, higher educational goals, and increased self-efficacy. Benefits to parents included greater encouragement of their children’s success and increased family unity.

More specifically, in kindergarten the SFDRP children were significantly more involved, relaxed, dominant, energetic, social, independent, purposeful, flexible, and affectionate to others than control children were. Significantly more of the treatment children attained an IQ score above 89. By first grade, SFDRP children continued to behave more positively toward other children, but their behavior toward adults had changed. These children displayed significantly more positive and negative behavior toward adults, including positive and negative bids for attention, bossiness, physical aggression, information-seeking behavior, and defiance in response to frustration or threats. In the eighth grade, SFDRP females performed better academically than control females. There were no differences between the males in the two groups. Significantly more control children committed violent crimes, though the numbers were small (3 versus 0). Also, significantly more control children were processed as probation cases (22 percent versus 6 percent), and their crimes were more serious. The total criminal justice system costs for the SFDRP group (n=65) was $12,111, while the control group (n=54) was $107,192.

Risk Factors


  • Broken home
  • Child victimization and maltreatment
  • Family management problems/Poor parental supervision and/or monitoring
  • Having a young mother
  • Low parent education level/Illiteracy
  • Parental use of physical punishment/Harsh and/or erratic discipline practices
  • Poor family attachment/Bonding


  • Low academic achievement
  • Negative attitude toward school/Low bonding/Low school attachment/Commitment to school


  • Economic deprivation/Poverty/Residence in a disadvantaged neighborhood

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • High expectations
  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Positive / Resilient temperament
  • Positive expectations / Optimism for the future
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Effective parenting
  • Good relationships with parents / Bonding or attachment to family
  • Having a stable family
  • High expectations
  • Opportunities for prosocial family involvement
  • Rewards for prosocial family involvement


  • Above average academic achievement / Reading and math skills
  • Opportunities for prosocial school involvement
  • Strong school motivation / Positive attitude toward school
  • Student bonding (attachment to teachers, belief, commitment)


  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Rewards for prosocial community involvement


  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


  • OJJDP: Blueprints
  • NIJ: What Works
  • HHS: Surgeon General


Aos, Steve, Robert Barnoski, and Roxanne Lieb. 1998. Watching the Bottom Line: Cost-Effective Interventions for Reducing Crime in Washington. Olympia, Wash.: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

Lally, J.R., and Alice Sterling Honig. 1977a. “The Family Development Research Program: A Program for Prenatal Infant and Early Childhood Enrichment.” In M.D. Day and R.D. Parker (eds.) The Preschool in Action: Exploring Early Childhood Programs. Boston, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon, 147–94.

———. 1977b. The Family Development Research Program: A Program for Prenatal Infant and Early Childhood Enrichment. Final Report. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University.

Lally, J.R.; P.L. Mangione; and Alice Sterling Honig. 1988. “The Syracuse University Family Development Research Program: Long-Range Impact on an Early Intervention With Low-Income Children and Their Families.” In D.R. Powell and I.E. Sigel (eds.) Parent Education as Early Childhood Intervention: Emerging Directions in Theory, Research, and Practice: Annual Advances in Applied Developmental Psychology, Vol. 3. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Lally, J.R.; P.L. Mangione; Alice Sterling Honig; and D.S. Wittner. 1988. “More Pride, Less Delinquency: Findings From the 10-Year Follow-Up Study of the Syracuse University Family Development Research Program.” Zero to Three 8(4):13–18.


Dr. Alice Sterling Honig
Syracuse Family Development Research Program
201 Slocum Hall
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY 13244
Phone: (315) 443-4296
Fax: (315) 443-9402