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Nurse Visits in Infancy May Lead to Less Criminal Behavior

Follow-up study at 19 finds less criminal behavior, better economic prospects, but only for girls

THURSDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The female children of young, low-income women have better educational and economic prospects, and are less likely to commit crimes, if they receive nurse visits during infancy, according to a follow-up study in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

John Eckenrode, Ph.D., of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and colleagues conducted a 19-year follow-up of 310 children born to young (less than 19 years of age) low-income women in the Elmira Nurse-Family Partnership, a program of prenatal and infancy nurse home visits. The researchers randomized women to groups receiving either developmental screening at 12 and 24 months; developmental screening plus prenatal nurse visits; or developmental screening, prenatal visits, and nurse visits through 2 years of age. The groups were compared for criminal behavior, work, education, welfare use and childbearing.

The researchers found that the beneficial effects of the nurse visits in infancy were limited to girls. The nurse-visited girls were less likely to be arrested and convicted than the screening-only group (10 versus 30 percent for arrests, 4 versus 20 percent for convictions). Also, girls in the nurse-visited group had fewer children and were less likely to have received Medicaid than those in the screening-only group.

"Prenatal and infancy home visitation reduced the proportion of girls entering the criminal justice system. For girls born to high-risk mothers, there were additional positive program effects consistent with results from earlier phases of this trial. There were few program effects for boys," the authors write.

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