Child care quality key for children from disadvantaged homes

Feb 04, 2011

Decades of research have demonstrated the importance of the resources in children's homes and the benefits of high-quality interactions with parents in supporting healthy development. High-quality child care plays a similar, albeit less powerful, role. Children who come from more difficult home environments and have lower-quality child care have more social and emotional problems, but high-quality child care may help make up for their home environments.

Those are the findings of a new study by researchers at the University of Denver, Georgetown University, American University, Harvard University, and Auburn University. The research is published in the January/February issue of the journal, Child Development.

Researchers used information from a large-scale carried out under the auspices of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development followed children from birth through the middle-school years.

This research looked at the double jeopardy of children at ages 2, 3, and 4-1/2 who come from more difficult home environments and have lower-quality child care. Difficult family environments were characterized by fewer resources, fewer learning opportunities, and less sensitivity and acceptance of the child as rated by trained observers in the home. Lower-quality child care was characterized by fewer observed learning opportunities, caregivers who used negative or neutral and tone of voice, as well as insensitive responses, as rated by trained observers in the care environment. The study also assessed the child's age, gender, race, and ethnicity; the family's resources in the child's first 6 months of life and at each assessment age; the age the child started child care; and how many hours per week the child spent in nonmaternal care.

The study found that children in difficult home and child care environments had more social-emotional problems--such as being anxious or fearful; behaving disruptively or aggressively; or being less helpful, friendly, and open to peers--than children who attended lower-quality care but were raised in more advantaged and supportive homes.

It also found that when children who grow up in homes that lack important influences are enrolled in high-quality child care, the child care may compensate for the children's challenging home environments. The researchers posit that experiencing high-quality child care may offer children models of positive ways to express themselves and interact with the world, and provide a safe emotional space to grow and learn. In so doing, children may be protected from developing anxious, fearful, aggressive, or unfriendly behaviors.

"This pattern of findings is consistent with existing evidence that the quality of child care that young experience may matter more for those from more disadvantaged home environments," according to Sarah Enos Watamura, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Denver, who directed the investigation.

"The study also confirms the importance of integrating early intervention strategies and policies across home and child care environments."

Explore further: Researchers reveal relationships between rare languages in the Colombian Amazon

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study finds effects of early child care at age 15

May 14, 2010

Teens who were in high-quality child care settings as young children scored slightly higher on measures of academic and cognitive achievement and were slightly less likely to report acting-out behaviors than peers who were ...

Children in formal child care have better language skills

Jan 05, 2011

Fewer children who attend regular formal centre- and family-based child care at 1.5 years and 3 years of age were late talkers compared with children who are looked after at home by a parent, child-carer or in an outdoor ...

Recommended for you

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

2 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

14 hours ago

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Net neutrality balancing act

Researchers in Italy, writing in the International Journal of Technology, Policy and Management have demonstrated that net neutrality benefits content creator and consumers without compromising provider innovation nor pr ...