A rather bad bit of news for working couple in India. A study in the US has found that children in day-care centers for a year or more tended to become disruptive in class. The effect persisted through the sixth grade.
The finding held up regardless of the child's sex or family income, and regardless of the quality of the day care center.
The study, a $200 million project financed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, recruited families in 10 cities from hospitals, after mothers gave birth.
The research tracked more than 1,300 children in various arrangements, including staying home with a parent; being cared for by a nanny or a relative; or attending a large day care center. Once the subjects reached school, the study used teacher ratings of each child to assess behaviors like interrupting class, teasing and bullying.
There was an aspect that the study did not take into account, says Marci Young, deputy director of the Center for the Child Care Workforce - and that is the employee turnover.
Most employees in such centers are "egregiously underpaid and have no benefits," Ms. Young said. And when they leave for other work, "Children experience this as a loss, and that does have an effect on them."
The Children's Defense Fund estimates that 2.3 million American children under age 5 are in day care centers, many starting as toddlers and continuing until they enter kindergarten. Some 4.8 million are cared for by a relative or a nanny, and 3.3 million are at home with their parents.
Preschool peer groups probably influence children in different ways from one-on-one attention. In large groups of youngsters, disruption can be contagious. Strikingly, children can be calmed by just the sight of their own mother, it has been found.
"What the findings tell me is that we need to pay as much attention to children's social and emotional development as we do to their cognitive, academic development, especially when they are together in groups," said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group.
The continuing research project of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, began in 1991. The investigators have financing to follow the same children into high school, and are proposing to follow some into their 20s.