Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Final Report - Volume Two. 3.9 Predictors of Outcomes

09/01/2002

We performed regression analyses on a number of family functioning outcomes measured at the post-treatment interview and at followup. The analyses were intended to control for the effects of a number of variables, thereby providing more sensitive tests of the effects of family preservation, and to examine the effects of the variables on the outcomes. The dependent variables in these analyses were some of the scales of functioning discussed above: caretaker depression, child aggression, punishment, child school problems, difficulty paying bills, positive life events, negative life events, positive child behaviors, negative child behaviors, household condition, positive child care practices, and negative child care practices. Independent variables in these analyses were assignment group (experimental or control), caretaker's age, caretaker's race, family composition, caretaker's educational attainment, caretaker's employment status, residential stability, use of income support programs, caretaker's history of abuse and/or neglect, regular access to an automobile, and time to interview (days between random assignment and post-treatment/followup interview). The analyses also included the initial scores for the dependent variable, thereby controlling the level at post-treatment or followup for the initial value. Interactions between control variables and experimental group were also examined, only a few were found to be significant. (48)

Caretaker's age, caretaker's race, family composition, caretaker's educational attainment, caretaker's employment status, use of income support programs, caretaker's history of abuse and/or neglect have all been examined in previous studies of outcomes in child welfare and have often been found to be predictive. Residential stability and regular access to a car have been less often examined. Since transportation and housing assistance are commonly provided in family preservation service models, the inclusion of such variables seems justifiable. Moreover, prior research does support a relationship between residential stability and major depression (49) and child adjustment. (50) Similarly, transportation (or lack there of) has been found to be related to participation in social programs (51) and family functioning. (52) We included time to interview because of the fact that that varied considerably and might have affected the degree of change that we were observing.

Regression analyses were conducted at the family level for both the post-treatment and followup measures. The coefficients are displayed in Table 3-13 and 3-14. All of the coefficients are shown for the initial measure of the outcome variable and for experimental group. Coefficients for other variables are shown if they were significant at p = .1 or lower. Most of the analyses are ordinary least squares regressions, logistic regressions were used for dichotomous or highly skewed variables. Generally, the initial measure was the strongest predictor. Although the size of these coefficients decreased between the post-treatment and followup interview, the majority of such coefficients remained significant. The positive direction of the coefficients indicates that caretakers with higher initial values also had higher post-treatment and followup values.

In regard to the post-treatment analyses, experimental group families generally had better outcomes, but the differences were significant in only three analyses. In New Jersey, the experimental group had lower depression scores and lower negative child care practices than the control group when controlled for the other independent variables. In the analysis without controlling for the other variables, the result for depression was in the same direction, but not significant (p = .08). The result for negative child care practices without the control variables was also in the same direction and significant (p = .02). In Tennessee the experimental group had fewer negative life events in the regression analysis. The difference between groups in the uncontrolled analysis was not significant. (53) Three differences significantly in favor of the experimental group in the uncontrolled analyses were no longer significant in the regression analysis, all in New Jersey: caretaker use of punishment, negative life events, and positive child behaviors.

At the followup interview, the regression analysis indicates that family preservation clients had lower levels of child aggression in Tennessee, fewer school problems in Kentucky, and fewer problematic conditions in the home in Tennessee. There were no significant differences between groups in the uncontrolled comparisons.

Regarding the remaining independent variables, there was little consistency in whether or not a variable had an effect and even in the direction of the effect. The following discussion focuses on those variables significant at p = .05 or lower. At post-treatment, the variables that most often showed effects were education and the caretaker having a history of being maltreated.

Table 3-13
Regressions Of Post-Treatment Family And Child Functioning Scales (Regression Coefficients)
Dependent Measures Initial Measure Experim.
Group
Assignment
Care-taker
Age
Single
Mother
Ethnic
Minority
Abuse
Neglect
History
Education Employ-
ment
Income
Support
Access
to Car
Housing
Stability
Time to
Interview
Caretaker depression
Kentucky2 .596** -.053 .083     .144**           .078
New Jersey2 .690** -.202**   -.048   .102*   -.170**        
Tennessee2 .606** -.064                    
Child aggression
Kentucky .522** -.051                    
New Jersey .589** -.044       .101*   -.079        
Tennessee .533** -.004                    
Punishment
Kentucky1 9.81** 1.16         2.02*          
New Jersey .529** -.079                    
Tennessee .281** -.012                    
Child school problems
Kentucky .539** -.020 .111                  
New Jersey .381** -.041           .107        
Tennessee .654** -.073                    
Difficulty paying bills
Kentucky .608** .023                    
New Jersey .632** -.061         -.080     -.088 .107*  
Tennessee .513** -.020   .155             .142  
Positive life events
Kentucky .218** .055         .160** .124*        
New Jersey .330** -.074     -.108*     .104       -.139*
Tennessee .330** .020                    
Negative life events
Kentucky1 1.85* .833       2.69**            
New Jersey .278** .008     .132*     .097        
Tennessee .100 -.768**         -.290**   -.707**      
Positive child behaviors
Kentucky .489** -.002 -.089         .120*        
New Jersey .579** -.032                    
Tennessee .525** .098 -.187*                  
Negative child behaviors
Kentucky .592** -.012                    
New Jersey .581** -.078                    
Tennessee .647** -.016                    
Household condition
Kentucky1 9.01** .961         .414*         .948
New Jersey1 5.66** .744             2.01*      
Tennessee .429** -.004                    
Positive child care
Kentucky .401** -.041   .113*           .128*    
New Jersey .566** .007     -.081              
Tennessee .575** .069     .268**              
Negative child care                        
Kentucky .569** -.078             -.115*      
New Jersey .571** -.119* .083 .116*                
Tennessee .371** -.136                   -.177

1 Logistic regression, Exp (B) displayed
2 Depression scores transformed using log transformation
* p < .05, ** p < .01. All coefficients for experimental group assignment and initial measure are shown, regardless of significance. All other entries without stars are significant at .1.

Table 3-14
Regressions Of Followup Family And Child Functioning Scales (Regression Coefficients)
Dependent Measures Initial Measure Experim.
Group
Assignment
Care-
taker
Age
Single Mother Ethnic Minority Abuse Neglect History Education Employ-ment Income Support Access to Car Housing Stability Time to Interview
Caretaker depression
Kentucky2 .552** .068 .116*                  

New Jersey2

.518** -.051         -.124*          
Tennessee2 .443** -.011                    
Child aggression
Kentucky .363** .022                    
New Jersey .417** .031 -.120*                  
Tennessee .347** -.226*                   .173
Punishment
Kentucky1 6.67** .750                   .977*
New Jersey .288** -.085     -.126   -.108          
Tennessee .271* -.146                   .293**
Child school problems
Kentucky .254** -.147* .253**         .180**        
New Jersey .272** -.098                    
Tennessee .451** -.002         .290**          
Difficulty paying bills
Kentucky .396** -.016         .127*          
New Jersey .537** -.001       .108* -.108*          
Tennessee .290** -.132                    
Positive life events
Kentucky .260** -.044     .117   .227**          
New Jersey .081 -.049 -.165*                  
Tennessee .261* -.081           -.198   .304*    
Negative life events
Kentucky1 1.71* 1.18                    
New Jersey .356** .023     -.176**              
Tennessee .116 -.127       .272*           .236*
Positive child behaviors
Kentucky .250** .028         .182**          
New Jersey .294** -.002         .165*          
Tennessee .192 -.064 -.231*               .301**  
Negative child behaviors
Kentucky .385** -.058           .137*        
New Jersey .404** -.016     -.121*              
Tennessee .344** -.097                   .200
Household condition
Kentucky1 3.86* 1.38   .271                
New Jersey1 3.59** 1.40             2.51*      
Tennessee .045 -1.24** -.317                 .207
Positive child care                        
Kentucky .370** .014 -.193**         .133*        
New Jersey .164* .044 -.200**                  
Tennessee .110 -.056                    
Negative child care                        
Kentucky .340** .020                    
New Jersey .311** -.050     -.135*     -.143*        
Tennessee .195 -.085                   .296*
1 Logistic Regression, Exp (B) displayed
2 Depression scores transformed using log transformation
* p < .05, ** p < .01. All coefficients for experimental group assignment and initial measure are shown, regardless of significance. All other entries without stars are significant at .1.

Caretaker education was related to three post-treatment outcomes in Kentucky. More education was associated with more punishment, more positive life events, and worse household condition. In Tennessee more education was related to fewer negative life events. In Kentucky, having a history of maltreatment was related to higher depression and more negative life events. In New Jersey, history of maltreatment was related to higher depression and children being more aggressive. Income support, ethnic minority, and caretaker employment all were predictors in 3 of the 36 post-treatment regressions. Time to interview was significant in only one of the regressions.

At followup, time to interview emerged as a predictor in 4 of the 36 regression equations, in all cases related to an increase (worsening). Other variables often related to outcome were caretaker age and education. In New Jersey, older caretakers had fewer positive life events and had children who were less aggressive. In Tennessee, older caretakers had children with fewer positive behaviors. In Kentucky, older caretakers had higher depression scores, less often engaged in positive child care practices, and had children with more school problems.

In New Jersey at followup, caretaker education was related to 3 outcomes. More education was related to lower depression, less difficulty paying bills, and more positive child behaviors. In Kentucky, more education was related to more difficulty paying bills, more positive life events, and more positive child behaviors. More education in Tennessee is related to more child school problems. In Kentucky, caretaker's employment is related to more negative child behaviors, more child school problems, and more positive child care practices. Caretaker employment in New Jersey is associated with fewer negative child care practices. Ethnic minority caretakers in New Jersey had fewer negative life events, engaged in fewer negative child care practices, and had children with fewer negative behaviors.

The 72 regression equations for post-treatment and followup contain a fair number of significant coefficients, but there is little consistency across states or across outcomes.

In summary, regression models were constructed to explore the relationship between caretaker demographic characteristics and experimental group and family functioning. Other than the initial value of the measures, relatively few significant relationships emerged. Moreover, these relationships were not consistent across the states. As to the effects of family preservation services, these data do not support a strong relationship between these services and better family functioning.

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