Early Growth and Development Study: Phase I

Based on Research Conducted at OSLC

A nationwide study of the relationship between heredity and family environment on child development.

Project Overview

The Early Growth and Development Study: Phase I (EGDS) was a longitudinal prospective study involving adoptive families and birth parents. OSLC subcontracted with Pennsylvania State University, the University of California at Riverside, and Yale University to assist in nationwide data collection efforts. This study builds on important developments in understanding the relationship between heredity and family environment in child development. Traditional thinking was that nature or nurture influence a child’s development. More recent research is showing that nature and nurture are closely connected and both, together, often influence the same area of a child’s development. In the first phase of the study, we focused on how infant and toddler behaviors are influenced by their heredity and their relationship with their parents by studying families where the child is not raised by anyone from their biological family. The sample included 361 sets of adopted children, their adoptive parents, and their birth parents. This study was the first of its kind to focus on both the adoption process and the influences of heredity and family environment on children’s behavioral development at the same time. In Phase I of the study, we interviewed the original participants as the adopted children entered the early school-aged years. We continued to look at the connection between nature and nurture on children’s behavioral development, and also examined such influences on children’s regulatory system by measuring salivary cortisol levels. Over a 3-year period, each birth parent was visited once, and each adoptive family was visited thrice. In addition to the in-home assessments, we conducted brief telephone check-ins with participants, and birth and adoptive parents completed a series of questionnaires.

Year Project Began: 2002
Funder: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Principal Investigator

Leslie Leve, Ph.D.

Senior Fellow Scientist
Oregon Social Learning Center

Primary Research and Clinical Interests

Dr. Leve’s research is focused on the translation of basic research to inform preventive interventions. She leads research grants from NIDA, NIMH, and NICHD that focus on developmental pathways and intervention outcomes for at-risk youth and families. This includes preventive intervention studies with youth in foster care and with adolescents in the juvenile justice system aimed at preventing risk behaviors and improving public health outcomes, as well as adoption studies that examine the interplay between biological (genetic, hormonal), psychological, and social influences on development. Her published work in the area of gene-environment interplay emphasizes the translation of basic research findings to help refine the selection of malleable environmental targets in the context of prevention and intervention studies. She is also interested in issues specific to adjustment and outcomes for girls and women. Dr. Leve is a Professor of Counseling Psychology and Human Services in the College of Education and a Research Scientist at the Prevention Science Institute at the University of Oregon. She is the recipient of the 2011 Society for Prevention Research Prevention Science Award and is a member of the Society for Prevention Research Board of Directors. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon in 1995.