By the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
In the early 1990s, the majority of children began some non-maternal care by 6 months of age. results from the NICHD Study of early child care and Youth Development show that, in its demographically and ethnically diverse sample of more than 1,000 children, the average child spent 27 hours a week in non-maternal care over the first 41⁄2 years of life. During the children’s first 2 years of life, most child care took place in family homes with relatives or in child care homes; as children got older, more were in center-based care.
When it came to understanding how these experiences might influence children, knowing simply whether a child was or was not ever in non-maternal care provided little insight into a child’s development. children who were cared for exclusively by their mothers did not develop differently than those who were also cared for by others.
Quality, quantity, and type of non-maternal care were modestly, but not strongly, linked to the children’s development regardless of family features.
Children who were cared for exclusively by their mothers did not develop differently than those who were also cared for by others.
Children in higher quality non-maternal child care had somewhat better language and cognitive development during the first 41⁄2 years of life. they were also somewhat more cooperative than those who experienced lower quality care during the first 3 years of life.
Children with higher quantity (total combined number of hours) of experience in non-maternal child care showed somewhat more behavior problems in child care and in kindergarten classrooms than those who had experienced fewer hours.
Children who attended child care centers had somewhat better cognitive and language development, but also showed somewhat more behavior problems in child
care and in kindergarten classrooms than children who experienced other non-maternal child care arrangements.
Parent and family characteristics were more strongly linked to child development than were child care features. and, parent and family characteristics predicted some developmental outcomes that were not predicted by child care. for instance, children showed more cognitive, language, and social competence and more harmonious relationships with parents when parents were more educated, had higher incomes, and provided home environments that were emotionally supportive and cognitively enriched, and when mothers experienced little psychological distress.
Family and parenting experiences were as important to the well-being of children who had extensive child care experience as family and parenting experiences were for children with little or no child care experience.
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