This is good news for working parents. A new study on child behavior found no link between long-term daycare hours and aggressive or antisocial behavior in children.
The journal published the study. Child DevelopmentData was collected on over 10,000 preschoolers from five different countries in North America, Europe and Asia. According to the study, there is also no evidence to suggest that a mother’s education level or their household income had any effect how long a child spent in childcare centers. But, most importantly, what the evidence does suggest is that these childcare centers can be beneficial to children’s learning behaviors.
Based on parent and teacher reports, the international researchers found that there were no “externalizing” behaviors such as, bullying, picking fights, hitting, biting or hair pulling, among others.
Catalina Rey-Guerra, a PhD candidate at Boston College in Massachusetts and the group leader, wrote, “This is reassuring given that trends in child-care use and parental participation in the labor force are likely to remain stable.”
“Given the existing evidence of long-term achievement benefits of early childhood care and education for children, I think our findings 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 harmful effects to their child,” Rey-Guerra added.
Since long has the notion that daycare children are more likely to have behavior problems is a topic of debate. This is not just a topic of debate among researchers, but also among parenting circles. While moms face all sorts of judgments about their parenting style, there are often questions, judgements and looks when someone discovers your child is attending daycare.
It’s important to note that a lot of the previous research on this topic relied very little on US children.
Rey-Guerra points out, “Disagreements have been difficult to settle because the vast majority of studies done are purely ‘correlational,’ leaving open many alternative explanations as to why children who spend large amounts of time in center care could be at risk other than center care per se.”
She continues, “Our aim was to improve the research, providing rigorous tests of whether increasing a child’s time in center-based care leads to increases in problem behaviors, and using data from seven studies from five countries.”
The different hypotheses for how or why children exhibit certain behaviors ranges from severing the mother-child attachment to simply picking up on other kids’ behaviors in a classroom. Rey-Guerra argues that many of these theories are false.
One thing is certain: the ratio of teacher to child does play an important part. So what does this all mean? The risk of bad behaviour increases when there are too many children in childcare centers. To be clear, the ideal ratios should be 1:4 for infants; 1:7 for toddlers; and 1 to8 for preschoolers.
Carol Weitzman, MD, a pediatrician in the Division of Developmental Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study, commented that ultimately the most important factor is that a child’s needs are being met regardless of their circumstances.
Weitzman says that, “You are more likely to see maladaptive and stressed behaviors such as aggression, acting out, and mood dysregulation,” in those children whose needs are not being met.
“Quality child care scaffolds children so they can learn to identify and describe emotions and negotiate increasingly complex social situations,” she says. Preschoolers are able to share and take turns so being in daycare with other children can help build friendships and understanding.
She adds, “When women comprise approximately 50% of the U.S. workforce, our questions should be about how to ensure quality and affordable care for all children and how to establish and enforce child-friendly parental leave policies.”
Weitzman points out that the US ranks lowest among the four countries studied in terms of paid parental leave and maternity leaves.
She says, “In fact, we are last when compared with 40 other developed nations.”