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.