Enhancing early child care quality and learning for toddlers at risk: The responsive early childhood program

Susan H. Landry, Tricia A. Zucker, Heather B. Taylor, Paul R. Swank, Jeffrey M. Williams, Michael Assel, April Crawford, Weihua Huang, Jeanine Clancy-Menchetti, Christopher J. Lonigan, Beth M. Phillips, Nancy Eisenberg, Tracy Spinrad, Jill De Villiers, Peter De Villiers, Marcia Barnes, Prentice Starkey, Alice Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Despite reports of positive effects of high-quality child care, few experimental studies have examined the process of improving low-quality center-based care for toddler-age children. In this article, we report intervention effects on child care teachers' behaviors and children's social, emotional, behavioral, early literacy, language, and math outcomes as well as the teacher-child relationship. The intervention targeted the use of a set of responsive teacher practices, derived from attachment and sociocultural theories, and a comprehensive curriculum. Sixty-five childcare classrooms serving low-income 2-and 3-year-old children were randomized into 3 conditions: business-as-usual control, Responsive Early Childhood Curriculum (RECC), and RECC plus explicit social-emotional classroom activities (RECC+). Classroom observations showed greater gains for RECC and RECC+ teachers' responsive practices including helping children manage their behavior, establishing a predictable schedule, and use of cognitively stimulating activities (e.g., shared book reading) compared with controls; however, teacher behaviors did not differ for focal areas such as sensitivity and positive discipline supports. Child assessments demonstrated that children in the interventions outperformed controls in areas of social and emotional development, although children's performance in control and intervention groups was similar for cognitive skills (language, literacy, and math). Results support the positive impact of responsive teachers and environments providing appropriate support for toddlers' social and emotional development. Possible explanations for the absence of systematic differences in children's cognitive skills are considered, including implications for practice and future research targeting low-income toddlers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)526-541
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Child care
  • Early intervention
  • School readiness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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