Spending time in the nursery does not cause children to behave, research shows

A new study suggests that children who spend long hours in daycare centers are less likely to become hitters, biters, hair-pullers or bullies. Photo by Cindy Parks/Pixabay

Millions of parents drop their toddlers off at daycare centers so they can go to work, but some are wracked with guilt.

One of their biggest concerns? Time spent in group day care can encourage their toddler to take up acting.

Now, a large, new study suggests parents can breathe a sigh of relief: Kids who spend long hours in daycare are no longer likely to become hitters, biters, hair-pullers or bullies.

“The fact that we find no association between time spent in center-based care and children’s externalizing behaviors is reassuring to parents given current trends in childcare use and parental participation in the workforce,” said study co-author Catalina Rey-Guerra. . She is co-director of Fundación Apapacho and a fellow of the Institute of Early Childhood Policy at Boston College.

Previous studies have shown that child care can actually improve school performance over time.

“Our findings speak to both the direct positive effects childcare attendance can have on children, as well as the indirect positive effects by allowing parents to participate in the workforce without fear of harming their child,” said Rey- Guerra. .

For the study, the researchers reviewed reports from teachers and/or parents on more than 10,000 preschoolers who participated in seven studies from 1993 to 2012. The study involved five countries. The older the children got, the more hours a week they spent in day care centers, but this did not lead to behavioral problems. The findings held even when researchers controlled for household income or parents’ education level.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Child Development.

Child experts not part of the study point out that there are pros and cons to any childcare arrangement.

“In general, what’s best for the family is what’s best for the child,” says Michael Mintz, assistant director of the child development program at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.

You don’t want a parent staying at home when they’re happier working outside the home, he said. “It also might not make sense for a family member to drive 30 minutes across town to take their child to the ‘perfect daycare’ when home care is provided two doors away and is loving and supportive,” Mintz noted.

Dr. Shawna Newman, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, agreed. “Parents are always concerned about the best possible care for their children.”

And for those opting for downtown childcare, this study is “extremely reassuring and encouraging,” she said. “There is no evidence that time spent in day care at the center results in more externalizing behaviors in children, such as outbursts and aggression.”

There are other benefits to center-based care. “It can be educationally enriching and provide developmental, age-appropriate learning opportunities and social and emotional support,” Newman said.

When considering a program, make sure the staff welcomes parents and caregivers, she said. “If you come in and think, ‘Wow, I feel welcome,’ your child will too.”

Facility cleanliness is also important, Newman added.

“The center should provide a regular schedule where children have snacks, stories, naps and circle time that give a rhythm to their day,” she said.

Make sure staff are friendly, love kids, and aligned with the mission of the specific center you choose, whether that be education, creativity, or any other purpose.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers tips for choosing the right daycare for your child.

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