The fact that young children who spend more time in childcare facilities are not more likely to develop behavioural issues will be welcomed news for working parents.
Researchers examined data on more than 10,000 toddlers enrolled in seven studies from five nations in North America and Europe for a recent study that was published in the journal Child Development. In toddlers and preschoolers, it was discovered that spending more time in centres for child care was not associated with overt antisocial behavior.
The international investigators examined teacher and parent accounts and discovered no rise in “externalising” behaviours like bullying, fighting, striking, biting, kicking, hair pulling, or even restlessness.
This is encouraging, the team lead by Boston College PhD candidate Catalina Rey-Guerra noted, “considering that trends in child-care use and parental engagement in the labour market are anticipated to remain constant.”
The research also found no proof that a child’s socioeconomic status, including the family’s income and the mother’s educational background, altered the impact of the child’s time spent in center-based care.
Care centres can also offer stimulation through long-lasting learning advantages, which will not aggravate behaviour.
The results, according to Rey-Guerra, “speak to both the direct positive effects that attending child care might have on children and also the indirect positive effects through their parents being able to participate in the workforce without the fear of any detrimental effects to their child.” Given the body of research showing the benefits of early childhood care and education for children’s long-term achievement.
According to her, worldwide policies assuring access to high-quality child care should be a top priority.
Researchers have disagreed about whether spending time in center-based child care directly contributes to children’s behavioural issues for almost 40 years.
Conflicts have been challenging to resolve because the vast majority of studies are solely “correlational,” leaving open a variety of different possibilities for why children who spend a lot of time in centre care might be at risk in addition to centre care itself, according to Rey-Guerra.
Additionally, the research has only used a small number of American studies.
The researcher says, “Our goal was to strengthen the study by giving rigorous evaluations of whether increasing a child’s time in center-based care results in increases in problem behaviours, and using data from seven studies from five different nations.
Research findings to date have been contradictory and ambiguous, and concern has persisted after some potential harm. For instance, a 2001 study indicated that only 8% of kids with fewer hours displayed violent behaviour, compared to 17% of kids who spent more than 30 hours a week in child care.
However, some studies, like a 2015 Norwegian study, indicated that the length of time spent in care facilities according to age or admission had negligible effects on behaviour. And according to Canadian studies, children receiving just maternal care were more likely to engage in violent behaviours than children attending group daycare.
Many theories for undesirable behaviours have been put up, ranging from the breakup of the parent-child relationship to young toddlers imitating the disruptive habits of their playmates in the daycare.
However, according to Rey-Guerra, “most of these hypotheses have not proven correct.” There is some evidence, meanwhile, that danger increases if kids spend their whole childhoods in classes with unreasonably large numbers of young kids, including when centres have teacher-to-child ratios that are too high. For infants, the ratio is 1:4, for toddlers it is 1:7, and for preschoolers it is 1:8.
According to Carol Weitzman, MD, a paediatrician in the Division of Developmental Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and an adjunct professor at Harvard Medical School, parental leave and family policies differ greatly between nations, so one country’s experience may not be transferable to another.
However, according to Weitzman, who was not part in the international study, “that is what makes the findings of this study so strong. In no context was the amount of child care connected with behaviour problems.”
Quality is crucial in all care settings, whether they are center-based, other nonparental, or parental care, as unfavourable reactions are more likely in kids whose needs are not being met.
The likelihood of maladaptive and stressful behaviours like hostility, acting out, and mood dysregulation increases at that point, according to Weitzman.
According to her, toddlers are developmentally prepared to navigate social circumstances like sharing, trading toys, and waiting for basic needs to be addressed.
“Quality childcare scaffolds children so they may learn to recognise and articulate emotions and navigate social situations that are getting more and more complicated.” Additionally, it can support toddlers in making relationships and understanding the perspectives of others.
Why then do people keep bringing up the negative implications of center-based care?
One must question whether there is an underlying presumption that children not raised by their mothers will fare poorly and that attachment will be threatened. “Our concerns should be about how to provide quality and affordable care for all children and how to design and implement child-friendly parental leave rules when women make up nearly 50% of the U.S. workforce.” She continues by saying that in terms of paid parental and maternity leave, all four of the other studied nations performed better than the United States.
In fact, she claims, “we rank worst among 40 other wealthy countries.”
According to her, all childcare facilities should have the same goals and requirements in order to encourage children’s full growth.