Obtaining information from multiple sources can provide a more comprehensive picture of children's behavior and development. Parents are an important source of such information, as they are "usually the most knowledgeable about their child's behavior across time and situations."(7) For school-age children, teachers can also provide important information on children's competencies and problems in the school setting. Children's reports can also be informative, for they represent subjective views of their own competencies and shortcomings. Finally, objective assessments of children's academic functioning such as standardized achievement tests provide a measure of performance on a specific "skill," free from subjective biases of informants.(8) Standardized assessments also are useful for comparing children's performance with those of their peers in the sample as well as to age-mates nationwide.
Mothers, teachers, and children provided information on children's social skills and behavior. Survey items in the social skills and behavior domain were worded specifically to capture social skills displayed in the classroom (for the teachers' report measures), social skills displayed in the home (for the mothers' report measures), and social skills more generally, as displayed in the home and/or the school (for the children's report measures). Thus, ratings of children's social skills and behavior by teachers should be seen as reflecting children's classroom behavior in the current school year, ratings of children's social skills and behavior by mothers likely capture the more stable component of children's behavior in the family, and children's ratings of their own social skills and behavior reflect their perceptions of their behavior in both the home and the school settings. Impacts on a social skill as rated by one reporter and not another thus may indicate changes in context-specific behavior. By contrast, a pattern of impacts that occurs on the same measure across reporters suggests a more global impact on children's positive and/or problem behavior.
Ratings of children's academic functioning were provided largely by teachers and, thus, reflect the teachers' views of how the children were performing (academically, socially) in school. While it is reasonable to expect that these reports and any impacts on academic measures would not contradict objective assessments of (and any impacts on) children's math and reading skills, such contradictions may arise if, for example, teachers' evaluations of children's academic capabilities reflect a more global perception of how the children are performing and behaving in school.
Finally, information on focal children's health and safety was obtained solely from mothers. Neither objective ratings of physical health (for example, height or weight) nor diagnoses by medical professionals were obtained. Thus, it is not clear to what extent mean levels and impacts on health and safety measures reflect the focal children's actual health status and to what extent they reflect mothers' perceptions of the children's health.
This section presents impacts of the LFA and HCD programs in Atlanta, Grand Rapids, and Riverside on children's developmental outcomes in the domains of social skills and behavior, academic functioning, health and safety, and the outcome relating to living arrangements.