The more time a child spends in a day-care center the more likely the child will misbehave in class, according to a long-term study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Children who’ve spent more than a year in center-based care are more aggressive and disobedient than children cared for by parents, other relatives, family child-care homes or nannies, concludes the study. The effect persists through sixth grade “regardless of the childâ€™s sex or family income, and regardless of the quality of the day care center,” reports the New York Times. Center grads aren’t that much rowdier, researchers say, but even minor misbehavior can have a cumulative effect.
With more than two million American preschoolers attending day care, the increased disruptiveness very likely contributes to the load on teachers who must manage large classrooms, the authors argue.
Most young children are cared for by parents, relatives or babysitters, but it’s estimated 24 percent attend a day-care center or preschool. The number is rising.
â€œI have accused the study authors of doing everything they could to make this negative finding go away, but they couldnâ€™t do it,â€ said Sharon Landesman Ramey, director of the Georgetown University Center on Health and Education. â€œThey knew this would be disturbing news for parents, but at some point, if thatâ€™s what youâ€™re finding, then you have to report it.â€
High-quality child care increases vocabulary, notes the Wall Street Journal.
Children who experience high-quality child care â€” whether in child-care centers or family child-care homes, or with sitters or nannies â€” have better vocabulary skills through fifth grade than children who get lower-quality care. However, math and reading gains, seen at younger ages in children who had spent time in high-quality care setups, didnâ€™t last past first grade. High-quality care is defined as care by an engaged, responsive adult or adults in a rich, nurturing setting.
Earlier studies found similar results but this is the first to track child-care effects all the way through sixth grade. Researchers will continue to follow children through school and possibly into their 20s.
By the way, Early Stories provides useful links on testing Head Start’s effectiveness.
Update: The Onion has more on the issue.