November 16, 2022 — Working parents will be relieved to know that young children who spend long hours in child care are not at greater risk for behavior problems.
in New study Published in the journal Child growth, The researchers examined data on more than 10,000 preschool children enrolled in seven studies from five countries in North America and Europe. It found that extended periods spent in child care at the center were not associated with overt antisocial behavior in toddlers and preschoolers.
Based on teachers’ and parents’ reports, international investigators found no increase in “out-of-the-box” behaviors, such as bullying, fighting, hitting, biting, kicking, hair-pulling, and even anxiety.
“This is reassuring given that trends in childcare and parental participation in the workforce are likely to remain stable,” the group led by Catalina Ray Guerra, a doctoral student at Boston College in Massachusetts, wrote.
The study also found no evidence that socioeconomic status such as family income and mother’s educational level altered the effect of time a child spent in care at the center.
Beyond deteriorating behavior, care centers can provide motivation through lasting learning benefits.
“Given the current evidence of the long-term achievement benefits of early childhood care and education for children, I believe our findings speak to both the direct positive effects that childcare may have on children as well as the positive indirect effects through their parents’ ability to participate in the workforce without fear of any adverse effects on their their child,” says Ray Guerra.
Policies that ensure access to quality childcare should be an international priority, she says.
For nearly 40 years, researchers have debated whether time in childcare directly causes children to develop behavioral problems.
“It has been difficult to iron out the differences because the vast majority of the studies that have been done have been purely ‘correlational,’ leaving open many alternative explanations for why children who spend extended periods in central care are at risk other than central care per se,” Rey Guerra says. .
The research also drew on a few studies from the United States
“Our goal was to refine the research, to provide rigorous tests to see if increasing a child’s time in care at a center leads to an increase in problem behaviors, and to use data from seven studies from five countries,” she continues.
Research results have been mixed and inconclusive so far, and concern persists after some suggested harms. a 2001 analysisFor example, it was found that 17% of children who spent more than 30 hours a week in child care showed aggressive behaviors, while these behaviors were observed in only 8% of children who had fewer hours.
But other research, such as A 2015 study from Norway, the amount of time spent in care centers by age or admission was found to have negligible effects on behaviour. And the Search from Canada found that aggressive behaviors were shown more often by children in exclusive maternal care than by those attending group daycare.
Numerous explanations for the bad behavior have been proposed, from the severing of the parent-child bond to young children imitating the disruptive behaviors seen by their fellow childcare workers.
But “most of these hypotheses have not been proven,” says Ray Guerra. “There is some evidence, however, that the risk is increased if children spend continuous time, across their childhood, in classrooms with very large groups of young children, such as when they exceed Centers recommended teacher-to-child ratios. (These are 1:4 for infants, 1:7 for toddlers, and 1:8 for preschoolers.)
Carol Weitzman, MD, a pediatrician in the department of developmental medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, warns that there are vast differences between countries in parental leave and family policies, so one’s experience is not necessarily the same. apply to another person.
However, this is what makes the results of this study so powerful. “The amount of childcare was not associated with behavior problems,” says Weitzman, who was not involved in the international study.
Regardless of the care settings – whether centralized, other non-parental or parental care – quality is key, with unwanted reactions more likely in children whose needs are not met.
“You’re more likely to see maladaptive and stressful behaviors such as aggressiveness, acting out, and mood swings,” says Weitzman.
She notes that preschoolers are developmentally ready to negotiate interpersonal situations such as sharing, taking turns with toys, and waiting for immediate needs to be met.
“Good childcare supports children so they can learn to identify and describe feelings and negotiate increasingly complex social situations.” It can also help preschoolers develop friendship and understanding of other people’s experiences.
Why does this question continue to be asked about the ill effects of care at the center?
“One has to wonder if there is an implicit bias that children not in a mother’s care will be worse off, and there will be threats to attachment,” says Weitzman. “When women make up nearly 50% of the US workforce, our questions should revolve around how to ensure quality, affordable care for all children and how to design and enforce child-friendly parental leave policies.” She adds that the other four countries in the study all ranked higher than the United States in terms of paid parental leave and maternity leave.
“In fact, we are in last place when compared to 40 other developed countries,” she says.
In her view, all types of childcare settings should have the same mission and standards – all aimed at promoting optimal development in youngsters.