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Syracuse Family Development Research Program



The Syracuse Family Development Research Program (FDRP) began as an omnibus effort to serve low-income, low-education families by providing education, nutrition, health, safety, and human service resources for 108 families. The goal was the support of child and familial behaviors that sustain growth and development after the intervention ceases. Home visitors, or Child Development Trainers (CDTs), visited each family weekly from before the birth of the baby until the child was five years old and graduated from the FDRP. FDRP targets very deprived families (low in both income and education) early in the last trimester of pregnancy. Program curriculum was theoretically based on Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget’s work as well as language development theory and Saul Alinsky’s ideas of empowerment of poverty families. Program service delivery was divided into home visitation, infant-fold, and family-style delivery. Home visitation: CDTs visited 15 families each week, demonstrating ways and means to nurture child development. Family problems (financial, emotional, social, and nutritional) were dealt with as they arose. Infant-fold: infants were assigned to a caregiver for attention, cognitive and social games, sensor-motor activities, and language stimulation. Play materials were used to help children develop means-ends relationships, object permanence, causality, spatial concepts, and language. Family-style: preschoolers attended a multiage program that conceptualized the environment as supporting child-chosen opportunities for learning and peer interaction in a space-oriented rather than time-oriented framework. When the children were teenagers, about ten years after their graduation from the program, they were assessed again. More of the FDRP youth expressed a liking for their own physical and personal attributes compared with the contrast group. Only 6 percent of the program youth in the follow-up sample were processed as probation cases by the County Probation Department as compared to 22 percent of the control youth. Estimated juvenile court costs were also lower for program youth as compared with control youth. Education outcomes were not as remarkable for males as for females.

Risk Factors


Conduct disorders (authority conflict/rebellious/stubborn/disruptive/antisocial)

Difficult temperament


Lack of guilt and empathy

Low intelligence quotient


Child maltreatment (abuse or neglect)

Family poverty/low family socioeconomic status

Family violence (child maltreatment, partner violence, conflict)

Having a teenage mother

Maternal drug, alcohol, and tobacco use during pregnancy

Parental criminality

Parental psychiatric disorder

Parental substance abuse

Parental use of physical punishment/harsh and/or erratic discipline practices

Poor parent-child relations or communication

Pregnancy and delivery complications


Moved to a new neighborhood


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Model program

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2001): Promising program

OJJDP Blueprints Project: Promising program

Crime Solutions: Promising


Dr. Alice S. Honig
Professor Emerita of Child Development
Syracuse Family Development Research Program (FDRP)
202 Slocum Hall
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY 13244
Phone: (315) 443-4296
Fax: (315) 443-9402
E-mail: [email protected]


Lally, J. R.; Mangione, P. L.; and Honig, A. S. (1988). “The Syracuse University Family Development Research Program: Long-Range Impact on an Early Intervention With Low-Income Children and Their Families.” In D. R. Powell and I. E. Sigel (eds.), Parent Education as Early Childhood Intervention: Emerging Direction in Theory, Research, and Practice. Annual Advances in Applied Developmental Psychology, Volume 3. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Date Created: April 7, 2021