Social Interventions: Early Childhood Education

Lawrence Sherman, one of the leading American experts on crime prevention, cites quality early childhood education (ECE) as one of programs most likely to reduce crime.1


Studies have repeatedly shown that high-quality ECE reduces the delinquency rate among disadvantaged children and increases their success rate in completing high school and obtaining employment.2 In fact, quality ECE benefits all children, regardless of social class and parental employment.3 One reason for this is that ECE provides the opportunity for early identification and intervention in cases of children with special needs.

Research has shown that oppositional disorders arise in children as young as age 2 or 3, and they can gradually develop into full-blown conduct disorders. Trained ECE workers can detect such problems and intervene themselves, or refer the children and their parents to other sources of help.4

A good example of an ECE-level intervention for conduct disorders can be found at Les Débrouillards child care centre in New Brunswick, which was profiled on page 7 of the Preventing Crime through Social Development Bulletin No. 7.

In some cases, the combination of ECE plus support for parents can make an extraordinary difference. This is particularly so with young teenaged parents, whose children face an alarmingly high probability of later criminality – one American study reported that 90% of incarcerated men aged 19 to 35 had been born to teenaged mothers.5

A good example of this approach can be found at the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg, the largest urban Aboriginal centre in Canada. They have integrated quality child care programs into a residence for teen mothers and included a number of other supports. See an article on the Centre on page 6 of the Preventing Crime through Social Development Bulletin No. 8.

In Canada, quality ECE is both scarce and expensive, outside of Quebec. Only 12% of Canadian children under age 12 have access to a regulated child care space, at a time when more than 70% of young children have mothers in the paid labour force.6 A 2001 survey found that families in Newfoundland devoted 14% of their income to child care, and in BC, it was 20%.7

There are some hopeful signs for the development of quality, affordable child care in the form of the federal government's commitment to invest $5 billion in child care over the next five years. For a dossier on the present state of child care in Canada, see Perception magazine, Vol. 27, #1 & 2.

Other Social Interventions

  Addictions Treatment
  Countering Violence
  Positive Parenting
  Secondary Education
  Special Needs Programming


1Sherman et al. Report to the United States Congress: Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn't, What's Promising. Washington: National Institute of Justice, 1997. See

2Safety and Savings,

3Childcare Briefing Notes,

4 Child and Family Canada. Disruptive Behaviour Disorders: Implications for the Child Care Community. See

5 Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre. Adolescent Pregnancy Facts. See

6Campaign 2000. Child Poverty Backgrounder, (2003. See

7Campaign 2000. Study gives Canada 'F' on child care, 2002.