Exploring the Impact of Head Start on Parents: A Pilot Study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action

Publication Date


Date Added



Background The national Head Start Program uses a comprehensive, family-centered approach to foster healthy development for low-income children. Over a 1-year period, a university—local Head Start research team developed and implemented a pilot project to explore the impact of the Head Start’s parental support services and other program activities. The interest was in determining any lasting effects on parents after Head Start. Objective To assess the change in and impact on education, employment, and personal development for Head Start parents using a community-based participatory approach. Methods This retrospective study involved 30 parent—child pairs randomly selected from graduate class lists. Face-to-face structured interviews conducted with parents focused on life changes and parent impact 2 years after Head Start. The focal areas included changes in and impact on education and employment, as well as the lasting effects of Head Start services and activities. Change was assessed using parametric and nonparametric tests. Results Descriptive analysis showed changes in education and employment, but none were statistically significant. The program impacted education through financial and emotional support. For employment, educational support facilitated the changes noted. The results also show three other areas of parental impact—personal development, family relationships, and health education. Conclusion These findings suggest that there are longer term parental outcomes that could be incorporated in assessments of Head Start effectiveness.






Public Health

Comments/Extra Notes

Additional authors: Yates, Dana.; Gee, Tara.