Full-time, “commercialized” child care can harm some children, write Carrie Lukas and Steven E. Rhoads in National Affairs. It’s a mistake to subsidize child-care centers, instead of helping parents choose a full range of options, they argue.
Psychologists, journalists, policy makers minimize the risks and laud the benefits of day care, write Lukas, a mother of five who uses part-time care, and Rhoads. They don’t want to hear any bad news.
Researchers stress that the negative effectives on children’s behavior are balanced by cognitive gains.
A study published in 2010 concluded that “the overall effect of 1st-year maternal employment on child development is neutral.” Mothers should feel no qualms about returning to work in their child’s first year, one child-development expert told the Washington Post.
But the study showed negative effects for children whose mothers returned to work earlier in the first year and for those in full-time care, write Lukas and Rhoads.
Results matched a 2002 study by Jay Belsky, which concluded that “early” and “extensive” non-maternal care posed “developmental risks for young children.”
Belsky’s follow-up study, “virtually ignored” by the media, he complains, showed that positive and negative child-care effects persisted at age 15. More “time in child care through the first 54 months of life, irrespective of quality or type of care, (predicted) more risk taking behavior and impulsivity.”
Quebec began offering heavily subsidized universal child care in 1997, write Lukas and Rhoads. Parents paid only $5 a day.
A serious of studies have found significantly worse outcomes for children linked to how young they were when they started child care and hours in care.
A 2014 studied found children who started child care at younger ages “experience significantly larger negative impacts on motor-social developmental scores, self-reported health status and behavioral outcomes including physical aggression and emotional anxiety.”
A 2015 follow-up study found “little impact on cognitive test scores” in the long term, but persistent problems with anxiety, aggression, and hyperactivity as children got older. Teens who’d spent more time in subsidized child car were more likely to commit crimes.
One group benefited from care: Children from lower socio-economic backgrounds who started child care at age three.
NPR reports on what good preschool looks like in four states.