Is day care beneficial for children?

Yes:

  • Multiple studies have found that, after statistically adjusting for the effects of social class and other potential confounders, kids enrolled in high quality child care given by nonrelatives develop slightly better cognitive and language skills—as measured at various points in their lives, all the way up through age 15—than do kids in low-quality care. These beneficial effects are more pronounced for low-income kids than children from more affluent families and for kids in center-based care than other types of care.
  • A study also compared children in child care to children who stayed at home with their mothers for the first three years of their lives, and the ones at home fared somewhere in the middle: They scored better on verbal comprehension tests at age 3 than did kids in low-quality care.
  • Separation-derived stress hormones may have positive benefits on children, including optimal development of brain circuits and emotional resilience.
  • Children who are socialised outside the home are exposed to more infections and end up with better immune systems as a result.
  • Social interaction – It improves a child’s ability to make relationships and attachments, and play with other children. Children are taught how to share; not to hit, push, or bite; and how to take turns.
  • The set routine of a day care centre can prepare a child for beginning school, allowing a greater ability to concentrate and perform better once at school

No:

  • , A study compared children in child care to children who stayed at home with their mothers for the first three years of their lives, and the ones at home fared somewhere in the middle: they scored worse on language tests at age 2 than kids in medium- and high-quality care.
  • A correlation between time spent in day care and behavioural problems reported by teachers has been found by various studies – poorer academic ability in the third grade and being more impulsive at 15 years old
  • The set routine of day care centres: “Staff have to stick to a routine in order to survive day-in, day-out with a rotating set of children. The trouble is, children don’t work this way. They are all different, with their different characteristics and needs” (Cavendish, 2011)
  • Using the Strange Situation Test (designed to measure attachment) psychiatrists have found that infants raised at home who are insecurely attached to their mothers are at higher risk of future psychological problems than are securely attached infants
  • Infants subjected routinely to more than twenty hours a week of nonmaternal care are more likely to show insecure attachment when tested. This insecure attachment is associated with traits such as heightened aggressiveness, noncompliance, and withdrawal in the preschool and early school years.

Conclusion?

Despite the many studies arguing that day care is bad for children, the probabilities found are very low and, of course, cannot be applied to every child or situation. As long as a good-quality day care centre is used with a set structure and not too much ‘TV time’, the benefits of social interaction and relationships outweigh the negatives.


Sources:

Moyer (2013): http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/the_kids/2013/08/day_care_in_the_united_states_is_it_good_or_bad_for_kids.2.html

Cavendish (2011): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/8758117/Does-day-care-damage-your-baby-One-mothers-view….html

Lambert (2011): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/8758078/Does-day-care-damage-your-baby-The-debate-rages-on….html

Shell (1988): http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/88aug/babe.htm

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