Long hours in daycare do not worsen young children’s behavior: study

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Nov. 16, 2022 — Working parents will be relieved to know that young children who spend extended periods in daycare are not at greater risk for behavior problems.

in one new study published in the journal Development of the child, The researchers examined data from more than 10,000 preschool children who participated in seven studies from five countries in North America and Europe. It found that prolonged periods of time spent in daycare were not associated with overt antisocial behavior in toddlers and preschoolers.

Based on reports from teachers and parents, the international investigators found no increase in “externalizing” behaviors such as bullying, fighting, hitting, biting, kicking, hair pulling and even agitation.

“This is reassuring given that trends in childcare use and parental labor force participation are likely to remain stable,” wrote the group, led by Catalina Rey-Guerra, a graduate student at Boston College in Massachusetts.

The study also found no evidence that socioeconomic status, such as household income and maternal educational level, altered the effect of a child’s time in care.

And far from making behavior worse, care centers can provide incentives through enduring learning benefits.

“Given the existing evidence of long-term performance benefits of children’s early childhood education and care, I think our results support both the direct positive effects that childcare attendance may have on children and the indirect positive effects of their parents’ opportunity.” to be able to participate in the labor market without fear of harmful effects on their child,” says Rey-Guerra.

Policies that ensure access to quality childcare should be an international priority, she says.

For almost 40 years, researchers have debated whether time in daycare directly leads to children developing behavior problems.

“Disagreements have been difficult to resolve as the vast majority of studies conducted are purely ‘correlational’ and leave open many alternative explanations as to why children who spend significant time in the care setting might be at risk other than the care setting per se.” says Rey-Guerra.

The research has also relied on only a few studies from the US

“Our goal was to improve the research by providing rigorous tests of whether increasing a child’s time in center-based care leads to an increase in problem behaviors, using data from seven studies from five countries,” she continues away.

Research so far has been mixed and inconclusive, and concerns lingered after some alleged damage. A Analysis 2001found, for example, that 17% of children who spent more than 30 hours per week in childcare exhibited aggressive behavior, while this behavior was observed in only 8% of children with fewer hours.

But other research, such as Study 2015 from Norway, found that time spent in care facilities had insignificant effects on behavior by age or entry. and Research from Canada found that children in exclusively maternal care showed more aggressive behavior than children in group day care.

Several explanations for bad behavior have been proposed, ranging from the severing of parent-child bonds to mimicking disruptive behaviors of young children observed in their parenting partners.

But “most of these hypotheses didn’t come true,” says Rey-Guerra. “However, there is evidence that the risk increases when children spend continuous time in classrooms with excessively large groups of young children throughout their childhood. for example, when centers exceed 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 an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, warns that when it comes to parental leave and family policies, there are big differences between countries, so experience of one isn’t necessarily there is applicable to another.

“But that is what makes the results of this study so robust. In no setting was the amount of childcare associated with behavioral problems,” says Weitzman, who was not involved in the international study.

Regardless of care settings—whether center-based, other nonparental care, or parental care—quality is key, with adverse reactions more likely in children whose needs are not being met.

“Then you’re more likely to see maladaptive and stressed behaviors like aggression, aggression, and mood dysregulation,” says Weitzman.

She notes that preschoolers are developmentally ready to manage interpersonal situations such as sharing, taking turns with toys, and waiting for immediate needs to be met.

“Quality childcare provides children with a framework so they can learn to recognize and describe emotions and deal with increasingly complex social situations.” It can also help preschoolers make friends and understand the experiences of others.

So why does this question about the bad effects of residential care keep getting asked?

“You have to ask yourself if there’s an underlying bias that children who aren’t cared for by their mother are worse off and attachment is threatened,” says Weitzman. “Since women make up approximately 50% of the US workforce, our questions should focus on how to ensure quality and affordable care for all children and how to establish and enforce child-friendly parental leave policies.” She adds that the other four countries in the study all ranked higher than the US for paid parental and maternity leave.

“In fact, compared to 40 other industrialized nations, we’re in last place,” she says.

In her view, all types of childcare should have the same mission and standards – all geared towards promoting the optimal development of youth.


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Long hours in daycare do not worsen young children’s behavior: study
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