The Pittsburgh Study

As part of the larger community-partnered effort, the Early Childhood Collaborative of The Pittsburgh Study (TPS) seeks to take advantage of our knowledge of early promotive factors and evidenced-based interventions to actively engage families to participate in such programs.  We know that low-income children miss out on exposure to as many as 10,000,000 words from 0 to 5 relative to their better-resourced peers and that early parenting programs can reduce this gap up to 50-60%. The challenge is making such early programs more accessible and appealing to low-income families, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, who have multiple reasons for not trusting the viability and sustainability of such resources. The Early Childhood Collaborative seeks to address these inequities by providing evidence-based parenting programs to families at locations parents with young children commonly frequent and typically trust (e.g., birthing hospitals, pediatric clinics and FQHCs, WIC, early learning centers). Interventions were selected based on their track record to previously engage low-income families of color in the Pittsburgh community and build on individual family’s strengths and resources so young children can thrive, setting children up for a pathway to flourish as adolescents and adults. 

We use a tier-based approach so that evidence-based preventive interventions with strong track record of engaging parents in Pittsburgh (e.g., Family Check-Up, Video Interaction Project, Healthy Families America) can be tailored to meet individual family needs, including logistical challenges. After piloting recruitment and intervention engagement methods with more than 100 families at local birthing hospitals, pediatric clinics, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and Women, Infants, and Children Nutritional Supplement centers (WIC), and then adapting remote methods for recruiting families and delivering interventions remotely due to COVID-19, official recruitment began in August, 2020.  

Our goal is to recruit approximately 8,000 families with children 0 to 5 years of age over the next 2.5 years. Using a 25-30-minute screen that is scored in real time at recruitment, then administered every 6 months through 3 and annually from ages 3.5 to 6, parents are offered interventions that are varied in intensity from texting programs to weekly in-person meetings, and tailored to individual family’s strengths and challenges. Child behavior, health, and school outcomes for those receiving intervention will be compared to those offered and declining intervention at multiple assessment points using propensity matching methods beginning in early childhood and continuing through middle childhood and beyond using parents’ reports and official records from schools, the departments of human services and health, as well as primary pediatric care.

If uptake of interventions is high and corroboration of benefits of evidence-based programs found, our ultimate goal is to change social policy by making these programs available in nontraditional settings to improve thriving for a higher percentage of Pittsburgh’s next generations of children.

For more information about the larger Pittsburgh Study, check out The Pittsburgh Study webpage

  • Funding Source: Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Shear Family Foundation, University of Pittsburgh, UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital, the Grable Foundation
  • Years of Funding: 2018-2022
  • Primary Investigator: PI Daniel Shaw
    • Co-Investigators: Chelsea Krug, Anne Gill, Amy Malan (Allegheny County Department of Human Services), Dannai Wilson (Allegheny County Department of Health,  Alan Mendelsohn (New York University)
    • Consultants: Debra Bogen (Allegheny County Department of Health), Cara Ciminillo (Trying Together)