Welfare Policies and Very Young Children: Experimental Data on Stage-Environment Fit

Heather D. Hill, Pamela Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The authors examined the effects of welfare programs that increased maternal employment and family income on the development of very young children using data from 5 random-assignment experiments. The children were 6 months to 3 years old when their mothers entered the programs; cognitive and behavioral outcomes were measured 2-5 years later. While there were no overall program impacts, positive or negative, on the development of children in this age group, there was a pair of domain- and age-specific effects: The programs decreased positive social behavior among 1-year-olds and increased school achievement among 2-year-olds. After exploring several explanations for these results, the authors suggest that the contextual changes engendered by the programs, including children's exposure to center-based child care, interacted differentially with specific developmental transitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1557-1571
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • infants and toddlers
  • maternal employment
  • stage-environment fit
  • welfare reform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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