The BIP Lab studies various aspects of parent engagement in child development, all of which are connected by several core tenets:

  • We aim to influence parent behavior as a means for improving child outcomes, particularly in low-income communities.
  • We hypothesize that insights from the fields of behavioral economics and neuroscience can be applied to create high-efficacy parenting interventions
  • We believe that technology holds great promise to building scalable and cost-effective interventions
  • We value iterative design, rapid cycle evaluation, and gathering input from our community partners

The following is a brief description of our ongoing grant-funded research domains:

  • Parent Engagement in Early Literacy Activities: Research has suggested that children are better prepared for kindergarten when parents create learning opportunities at home. The Parents and Children Together (PACT) study – the signature project of the BIP Lab – tested an intervention that aimed to encourage parents to spend more time engaged in educational activities with their children. The study draws on insights from behavioral economics – such as reminders, commitment devices, and social incentives – and used digital tablets with a recordable storybook reading application (A Story Before Bed) to carry out the intervention in eight Head Start preschools across Chicago. PACT was foundation-funded and has shown tremendous promise for influencing parent behavior.
  • Fostering Mindfulness in Low-income Parents of Young Children: Research demonstrates that stress reduction and relaxation activities can reduce the cognitive demands of stress and increase focus and attention. In partnership with Chicago’s Children’s Home + Aid Society and several Chicago-based Head Start centers, we look to see how stress-reduction activities can change both the quantity and quality of time parents spend with their children. The project explores the feasibility of developing a technology-based mindfulness intervention combined with behavioral devices like reminders and goal-setting. This body of work is funded by J-PAL North America and the Population Research Center at NORC.
  • Parent Engagement in Early Math Activities: MPACT, Math for Parents and Children Together, is a program that teaches parents what effective math instruction for young children looks like, shows them how to integrate math learning into everyday routines, and encourages parents to spend time in these activities. Building on the principles of the PACT project, which increased the time low-income parents spent reading to their children, MPACT uses insights from behavioral science to promote parents' engagement in building children's developmentally-related math skills. This project is currently in the pilot phase at one Chicago early childhood development center.
  • Improving Head Start Attendance: High levels of absenteeism are common in Head Start programs. Studies show that 36% of children in Chicago Head Start programs miss more than 10% of the school days, or over a month of instructional time. The BIP Lab is conducting a trial, called Show Up 2 Grow Up to test the effectiveness of a set of low-cost behavioral tools with the intent of reducing the rate of chronic absenteeism.  The intervention involves creating a platform for parents to set monthly goals for their child’s attendance, providing feedback for parents on their goals, and implementing a series of weekly text messages to provide information about the importance of preschool attendance. This project is funded by the Joyce Foundation and is currently being implemented in four Chicago early childhood development centers.