Children, aged 1.5 to 3 years, who are looked after at home by a parent, child-carer or in an outdoor nursery, have better language skills than those who attend regular formal centre and family-based childcare, according to a new study.
It found no relation between the type of childcare at the age of 1 year and subsequent language competence, which may indicate that the positive effect of centre-based childcare first occurs between the ages of 1 to 1.5 years.
Furthermore, there were fewer children who were late talkers among those who attended full-time centre-based childcare compared with part-time attendance at 3 years of age.
The findings, by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, support most of the previous research showing that children who have been in formal child care have better language skills than children who have had more informal care.
The study is based on information about 19,919 children collected by the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) and the Medical Birth Registry of Norway at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
Ratib Lekhal and co-authors found that about 12 percent of three-year-old children have either delayed language or show other deviations from normal language development. The prevalence varies according to the definition of language problems.
For about half of the children, difficulties in learning language are transient. For other children, the difficulties persist throughout school years and could have implications for how the child is able to adapt socially and function in school, work and society.
The study provides new knowledge about children's language development, the development trajectory in children with language difficulties and how they cope in school.
It also reveals whether the organisation of learning activities in formal child care affects children's academic and social development through their school years.
The researchers now hope to conduct a clinical study of children with language difficulties at the age of 5.
The study is published in the journal Early Child Development and Care.