Some of the negative effects of child care fade once children enter school, but others linger through the end of 3rd grade, according to the latest findings of the long-running Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development.
While the relationship between longer hours in care and greater behavioral problems grew weaker over time, the researchers still found a strong link to poor social skills. They also found a continuing connection between the amount of time children spend in center-based care and conflicts between them and their parents.
Children, however, benefit by spending time in nonmaternal care when its quality is high. Standardized 3rd grade achievement tests reviewed by the researchers showed that higher scores were linked to higher-quality care. And more time in center-based arrangements was tied to better memory skills in that grade.
Sponsored by the federal government’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the longitudinal study began in the early 1990s. The study, which involves more than 20 researchers, has used a variety of assessments and observation tools to determine the effects of different forms of child care—including center-based, home-based, and care by relatives—and whether those effects change over time. In more recent years, the researchers have focused on the influence of school and children’s activities.
“It remains to be determined if these relations with early child care remain, dissipate, or grow in early adolescence, a critical transition period for many children,” Deborah Lowe Vandell, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said last month in Atlanta at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development.
“It also remains to be seen if some effects such as those between child-care hours and behavior problems reappear as the study children move into early adolescence,” she added.
The report on the new findings, “Early Child Care and Children’s Development in the Primary Grades,” has not yet been published.