Study points out upside and downside to daycare in child development

BlogHer Original Post

When I saw this report on WABC New York's News at 5:00, Nina Pineda, a woman, reported the story. Not only did a woman report the story, but everyone at the anchor desk was female. Perhaps the female presence contributed to the tone of the report.

Pineda delivered the bad news in what I suppose is TV journalist compassionate mode. She stressed that parents shouldn't feel guilty because daycare is a necessity in today's economy and that the evidence also indicated that good parenting practices still win the day to guard against negatives.

All the women at the desk seemed sensitive to easing parental guilt as Pineda reported on a new study from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development that she partially summed up this way:

... the more time children spent in the care of someone other than their parents the more behavior problems they developed. (WABC)

The release at NICHD doesn't make it sound so bad. It starts like this:

Early Child Care Linked to Increases in Vocabulary, Some Problem Behaviors in Fifth and Sixth Grades

The most recent analysis of a long-term NIH-funded study found that children who received higher quality child care before entering kindergarten had better vocabulary scores in the fifth grade than did children who received lower quality care.

The study authors also found that the more time children spent in center-based care before kindergarten, the more likely their sixth grade teachers were to report such problem behaviors as "gets in many fights," "disobedient at school," and "argues a lot."

However, the researchers cautioned that the increase in vocabulary and problem behaviors was small, and that parenting quality was a much more important predictor of child development than was type, quantity, or quality, of child care. (NICHD)

According to WABC 7, this daycare study is the largest conducted ever. Researchers tracked more than 1,300 children from birth to sixth grade.

If you're a parent, in particular a mom, who must work or who knows she'd go insane if she didn't work outside the home, then don't go into a guilt funk over this one. Focus on the word "quality" used in this report. If you're convinced your child is in a quality daycare environment, then don't stress.

If you suspect your child's daycare provider is not what it should be, then you know what you have to do. Be on the look out for a better provider. This sounds easy, but I know finding the right daycare provider is more difficult for low-income mothers because less money limits choices.

The other word I picked up from this study is "time." The report says there's a link between "the more time" children spend away from parents and behavior problems down the road. No, duh! Did we really need a report to tell us that if our children don't see us they suffer emotionally? Actually, while researching this piece, I found an old CNN story that begins with similar news:

Young children who are cared for in "high quality" settings, where caregivers actively play and talk with them, have fewer behavioral problems than children cared for in settings where they don't get such intense attention, according to the results of an ongoing federally-sponsored child-care study.

I wonder if that 1998 federally-sponsored child-care study is the same study WABC reported on today. After all, this study's been going on for a very long time. Some children born in 1998 would be entering fifth grade about now.


  • Choosing child care,
  • Photo from 1998 CNN article on quality child care
    Read Nordette Adams' personal blog, Confessions of a Jersey Goddess at this link.
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