Children in Day Care - Are They More Aggressive?
Are children who spend more than 30 hours a week in child care more aggressive than other children? A large national study recently came to this conclusion and media was quick to report the findings. However, contrary to media reports, the findings are not substantiated.
The study found that 16 percent of children age 4 1/2 who were in care 30 hours or more per week had problem behaviors such as fighting, demanding attention, and talking back to adults. What wasn't mentioned is that 16-17 percent of all children this age typically have higher levels of these problem behaviors. Therefore, the incidence of behavior problems for children in full-time care was no higher than that found in the general population of children.
Quality Care Is Important
There were some important findings from the study that were not publicized. Child-care quality is very important. When care environments were more stimulating and well organized, children had better vocabularies; more advanced attention and memory skills and got along better with peers. In contrast, children who spent more time in front of TV showed more behavior problems, had smaller vocabularies and did less well on math problems.
Parenting & Home Environment Is Important
The quality of parenting and the home environment were also related to children's behaviors. Children whose mothers were more sensitive and responsive to their needs displayed better pre-academic and language skills and fewer behavior problems.
Implications for Parents
Parents selecting care should choose high-quality settings. In high-quality environments - whether offered by friends and relatives, family child-care providers or center staff - children spend less time watching TV and more time talking with adults. Children in high-quality settings are exposed to caregiver-initiated activities that stimulate language and cognitive development and activities that promote social development.
Contrary to what was reported from the national study, it is the quality of child care and how parents feel about their child care situation, not the quantity, that counts.