Childcare studies

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Registered: 01-02-2008
Childcare studies
Fri, 08-08-2008 - 7:37pm

3 New Studies Assess Effects of Child Care

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Published: November 1, 2005

For most working parents, no other issue is so fraught with worry as the choice of child care. In a field long plagued by overheated headlines and complicated political overtones, three new studies offer some solid information on the pros and cons of different arrangements.

Two bolster research that found that long hours in group child care are linked to better reading and math skills but worse social skills and more behavioral problems. The third suggests that children in child care centers are safer than those who receive care in private homes, whether in a neighbor's home or by a nanny in the child's own home.

Four years ago, the nation's most ambitious and longest-running child care study sparked a firestorm with its findings that 4½-year-olds who had spent more than 30 hours a week in child care were more demanding, more aggressive and more noncompliant than others, regardless of the type or quality of care, the family's socioeconomic status or the sensitivity of the mother's parenting.

Now a new report from that research - the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Study of Early Child Care - has tracked the same children through early elementary school and found that by third grade, those who had spent long hours in child care continued to score higher in math and reading skills and that their higher likelihood of aggressive behavior had dissipated. But it also found that they still had poorer work habits and social skills.

Researchers cautioned that the findings should not be a cause of alarm, since the effects of child care were found to be small.

"It isn't that these kids are more likely to have clinical levels of behavior problems," said Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, a professor of child development at Columbia University. "You're getting a slight uptick, but it's still in the normal range."

Generally, the effects of child care were much smaller than the effects of good or bad parenting.

"Virtually across the board, the effects of parenting are greater than the effects of child care, so some people might say we don't need to worry about the small effects of child care," said Cathryn Booth-LaForce of the University of Washington, a researcher on the study.

"But child care affects so many children that for society at large, even small effects are important," Professor Booth-LaForce added. "We have to consider whether we're creating a generation of children who have slightly less self-control, slightly more behavior problems, and whether teachers will have to spend a little more time on classroom management and a little less on instruction."

A separate study, being released today and based on a nationally representative sample of more than 14,000 kindergartners, found that while center-based day care programs modestly benefited middle-class children in early language and mathematics learning, youngsters from poor families experienced double those gains.

"Compared to many homes, preschool centers are richer settings in terms of enriched language, reading and math," said Bruce Fuller, a co-author of this report, "The Influence of Preschool Centers on Children's Development Nationwide: How Much Is Too Much?"

The report, by sociologists at Stanford and the University of California, found that cognitive skills in prereading and math were strongest when children entered a center-based program from age 2 to 3.

But it also found that on average, the earlier a child enters center-based care, the slower the pace of social development. The greatest effect was among high-income children. Youngsters who were from families with income of at least $66,000 and who spent more than 30 hours a week in center-based care had the weakest social skills - including diminished levels of cooperation, sharing and motivated engagement in classroom tasks, along with greater aggression - compared with similar children who remained at home with a parent.

Another study, being published today in The American Sociological Review, is apparently the first broad research into safety in child care. It found that the rate of death among children receiving care in private homes was 16 times that of children in child care centers.



iVillage Member
Registered: 07-12-2005
Sat, 08-09-2008 - 10:07am

I am a fan of studies. Not as a bible to dictate my parenting, but to be aware of how one factor may make something more or less likely with my own child. These studies are not giving a whole lot in terms of why the relationship between factors exist, so I don't find them particularly helpful in terms of giving me something to watch for and ways to minimize any negative impact.

The limitation of studies: they are comparing children of different families. They are not comparing how my child would be with a sahm vs how my child would be in day care.

If the differences the researchers found were significant, I would be more likely to be concerned. But even the researchers said they were a "slight uptick". With that in mind, I am going to trust my gut feeling that *my* kids are going to have a happier life with the status quo. And frankly, the other kids are not my responsibility, only mine are.

I've said it a million times on this board, but I know my life was better for having a mom that worked. Not for material reasons (though I did appreciate the college education), but because my mom would've been a helicopter mom, my dad would've had to work incredibly long hours, my dad would not have had the flexibility to attend our school events and chaperone trips and as it was, both parents were able to find the time to attend events and chaperone the trips that interested them. I could go on and on, but I have before, so I won't again.

My point being: a study is helpful in determining what to watch for and what to address proactively. In the end, it only provides statistics, and it is up to us to determine how our child fits into that statistical picture.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-22-2008
Sat, 08-09-2008 - 4:38pm
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-20-2003
Sun, 08-10-2008 - 4:05pm

OK - so my kids are likely to be better in math and reading? And more aggressive, but only in terms of this quote:

"weakest social skills - including diminished levels of cooperation, sharing and motivated engagement in classroom tasks, along with greater aggression - compared with similar children who remained at home with a parent."

Downside, please???

OK - I am being tongue in cheek a little bit. But honestly, I am having a little bit of trouble understanding the researcher who worries about the possibility of "whether we're creating a generation of children who have slightly less self-control, slightly more behavior problems, and whether teachers will have to spend a little more time on classroom management and a little less on instruction." They said that the aggressive behaviors (not defined by the way - are we talking violent behaviors? Or aggressive ones? What qualifies?) dissipate by third grade. I would certainly say that my own observational experience is that the kids in my son's K class who had been at home were more timid in K for several months. As a result, the less timid kids (only in daycare all along? I have no idea) were more likely to take control of games, take the favorite Lego first out of the bin, etc. Are those 'aggressive' actions? If so, I am not sure that I care. I have taught my boys that they are required to be polite, but not that it means taking a back seat. As the children of two introverts, me a slight I and my DH who is so buried deep in I that he can barely stand to be near me, my kids need every ounce of 'get out there' they can muster, and we both attribute their experiences in daycare for making them both more likely to approach others, take leadership in game play, volunteer to take a solo at church choir, etc.

Now do they mean aggressive as in violent? If so, then how? It would help to understand the definition. Again, based on experience, I have not seen my kids to be more or less violent. I've seen situations ratchet up in play settings with other 'daycare kids' and the same ratchet up with kids of SAH moms. I will say that my kids and other kids in center care seem to have more of a vocabulary/framework for sharing/cooperative play - at a very young age, they would articulate the 'rules' for taking turns, everyone gets a chance, etc. What I have seen is that spats are most likely to break out for them (and their friends) by a perceived breaking of those rules - i.e., the "It's not fair" argument. Thus, they tend to get aggressive/angry/whatever when it is perceived that someone is not playing by the rules of taking turns/waiting in order of turn/taking an extra turn/etc. I would not be surprised to learn that this is an artifact of being in center care, but again not sure if I see it as negative.

I will say that I chose center care for the exact fears they played too about in home care. I *know* that there are tons of loving, caring, trustworthy in-home caregivers, but without one known first-hand to me, the only choice I considered was center care. It just makes sense to me that a center where a crying baby can be handed off to the other adult in the room, and where there always **is** another adult in the room just dramatically reduces the risk of any one teacher hitting, mistreating, or 'snapping'. I also think that tightly defined and regulated ratios are key, and far too many states have too lax ratios. In our state, the ratio for infant-2 years is 1:3, with no more than 6 infants in a classroom (with 2 adults). It goes to 1:4 and then 1:6 ---- there isn't a 1:10 ratio until they get into 4 year old Pre-K. I have been with 2 centers and in both the ratios are taken very, VERY seriously. Directors check continuously, teachers are clearly instructed to call the front office if they are 'out of ratio' for any reason, etc. I've seen this behavior at all times of the day, and it reaffirmed my satisfaction with our choices.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-05-2000
Sun, 08-10-2008 - 9:26pm

This is from the National Network for Child Care website: "The number of hours in care also mattered. A few children (less than one in five) who were in care 30 hours or more per week were reported to have somewhat higher levels of problem behaviors compared to children who experienced less time in care. In many of the media reports these problem behaviors were labeled as "aggressive" behaviors. Some of the reported behaviors, such as fighting, would be viewed as aggression by most adults. Other reported behaviors, however, such as demanding attention or talking back to adults, are probably more likely to be labeled by adults as "challenging" rather than "aggressive" behaviors.

It is important to look at the exact findings related to problem behaviors and the amount of time in care to fully understand the implications of these findings. At age 4-1/2, 16% of the children who were in care 30 hours or more per week showed higher levels of problem behaviors than children in fewer hours of care. This effect was also evident in kindergarten where 17% of the children showed higher levels of these behaviors. It is important to note, however, that 16-17% of ALL children typically exhibit higher levels of these problem behaviors. Therefore the incidence of behavior problems for children in full-time care was no higher than that found in the general population of children.

On the other end of the continuum of care, children in care less than 10 hours per week showed very low levels of problem behaviors. Only 6% of these children demonstrated higher levels of these behaviors at 4-1/2 years, although this increased to 9% in kindergarten. It will be important to follow children with few hours in child care through elementary school to determine if problem behaviors in this group increase as they spend more time in complex, large-group settings."

I think that this is the study's website:


The truth may be out there but lies are in your head. Terry Pratchett

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-04-2007
Sun, 08-10-2008 - 10:40pm

If this is the research I think it is, it's worth noting that they lumped assertive behaviors with aggressive.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-04-2007
Sun, 08-10-2008 - 10:55pm

.....were reported to have somewhat higher levels....

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-02-2008
Mon, 08-11-2008 - 1:01am

""But I think the story here is when we are going to stop wringing our hands and start assuring better child care choices for parents.""

If I were to "sum up" the study, I think this statement was, for me, the most important. I think especially when it comes to infant care (because of their higher risk for death, and because they can't exactly speak up for themselves) parents need to be assured of quality care. When I did Navy home daycare years ago, I got inspected once a month. As a PARENT, I would be in love with that kind of program! Now, as a state licensee, I've had my license almost a year and not one inspection yet. My licensing agent has the largest district in THE NATION and he's said it's not uncommon to go 3 years without inspecting a home. Not that it means that dcp's in this area are necessarily BAD just because they don't get inspected, but as a parent, those kinds of stats would be of concern.

I've usually utilized friends or neighbors who had a daycare when my #1 and #3 were little, otherwise I used preschools with after-hour care. I really believe that my kids are better off for their preschool time.

"better choices" is one conclusion that I just can't find fault with!

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-04-2007
Mon, 08-11-2008 - 6:52am

Unfortunately, that's illogical.

Avatar for mkatherine
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Mon, 08-11-2008 - 7:04am
Not that I have a burning desire to have this conversation again but if you love studies -- great knock yourself out. suzanne and I don't. we know our kids and we know our selves and we know our lives -- that's all we "need" to know FOR US. I don't measure my child through the lense of a study. I just don't.
"If gay Americans are not allowed to get married and have all the benefits that American citizens are entitled to by the Bill of Rights, they should get one hell of a tax break. That is my opinion,"

- Jeane "Dear Abby" Phillips, in an interview with Lisa Leff.


Yes. We. Did.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-04-2007
Mon, 08-11-2008 - 7:21am

It's not an issue of loving studies but of understanding what they are.