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This research report is presented by The Child Advocate which is devoted to children and the parents and professionals that work with them and advocate for them.  The information presented at this site is for general use only and is not intended to provide personal advice or substitute for the advice of a qualified professional.  If you have questions about the information presented here, please consult a physician, the resources listed or other professional in your area.

Research Symposium – Thursday, April 19, 2001

Minneapolis, MN – This research extends previous findings through age 3
for over 1,300 children across 10 sites. Children participating in the
on-going study were placed in a variety of child care arrangements,
ranging from care with relatives to center based care. A panel of experts
who are conducting the NICHD Study will discuss the ramifications of this
research during the symposium.

Children Spending More Time in Child Care Show More Behavior Problems at Four and a Half

New research presented in the symposium demonstrates that when
children are four and a half years of age, and later, when they are in
kindergarten, children who spent more time in child care were rated by
caregivers, mothers, and kindergarten teachers as having more behavior
problems than did children of the same age who spent less time
in child care. The average hours per week across the period between 3 and
54 months of life that children were in non-maternal care was 26 hours.
Results show that:

Children who experience long hours of child
care over the first four years of life are more
at risk for showing behavior problems, particularly
aggression. Not only were these children more likely
to engage in assertive, defiant, and even disobedient
activities, but they were also more likely to bully,
fight with, or act mean to other children.

Children who spent more time in child care were rated as more fearful, shy, and sad compared to children who spent less time
in child care. These differences disappeared, however, by the time the children were in kindergarten.

17% of the children who were in child care for more than 30 hours per week over the first four and a half years of life were
rated as being often aggressive toward other children in kindergarten, while only six percent of the children who were in child care
for less than 10 hours per week on the average were rated the same way.

The quality of care tended to offset slightly the association between the amount of time in child care and the children’s behavior.
Specifically, when children were in high quality care, teachers were somewhat less likely to rate children in more hours of care as
aggressive than other children.

Preschoolers Who Experienced Higher Quality Care Have Better Intellectual and Language

Children in higher quality child care arrangements during their first
four and a half years of life scored higher on tests of cognitive skills
and language ability than did children in lower quality care, according
to researchers conducting the NICHD Study of Early Child Care. Quality
was assessed either through focus on state regulated aspects of care,
such as adult-child ratio, or through on-site observations Results show

Children who received more language stimulation from their
caregivers – such as responding to the children’s questions,
asking the children questions, reading to them, etc.-received
higher scores on intellectual and language tests than did
children with less language stimulation. However, language
stimulation was not related to children’s attention span,
ability to complete words with missing sounds, ability to
get along with others, or behavior problems.

Children who spent more time watching TV received lower scores
on tests of math problems, had smaller vocabularies, and had
more behavior problems.

Children whose care environments were more stimulating and
well-organized got higher scores on tests of vocabulary and
on short-term memory and attention. Children from these
environments were also better able to get along with their
peers, according to their caregivers.

These findings demonstrate that caregiver behavior is associated
with children’s later intellectual development and preschool skills. In
addition, the researchers found a link between the aspects of quality
care that can be regulated and children’s intellectual development. The
research shows that the link is due to the fact that providers with
better training and/or who work in settings with more optimal
adult/child ratios behave in a more sensitive, responsive, and
stimulating way toward children under their care.

Child Care Centers Have More Benefits for Preschoolers’ Language and Memory Skills Than Other
Types of Care, also Increased Risk of Behavior Problems

Children who spent more time in child care centers as opposed to other
types of care displayed better language skills and had better short-term
memory by the age of four and a half than did other children the same
age. Regarding the link between the type of child care that children
experienced and children’s developmental outcomes at age four and a half,
the researchers found that:

Child care in private homes for preschool-age children
may not provide as much stimulation as care in centers.

Center care in infancy is not associated with either
positive or negative developmental outcomes.

Caregivers in centers have more training and education than
do home-based care providers. Center caregivers typically
provide more verbal stimulation and respond more often to
children’s early language efforts, which promotes language
development. Similarly, the greater frequency of structured
activities led by teachers may also lead to the children’s
performing at higher intellectual and linguistic levels.

First Grade Classrooms May Not Be Ready to Meet Children’s Needs

The researchers conducting the NICHD Study will report that there
seems to be no agreement of what constitutes a proper first grade instructional
program or educational experience. Moreover, the experiences offered to
children in the first grade vary so much that they may not help address
the wide-ranging needs of children.

The investigators observed 827 of the Study children in their first grade
classrooms for approximately three hours at the beginning of the school
day. All teachers met state credentialing requirements. Results show that:

Children in different classrooms were exposed to a wide
range of experiences and activities. Across almost 2
hours, teachers were observed to be directly teaching
an academic skill, on average, in 4 minutes, although
there was wide variation.

More than 15 percent of the classrooms are rated as lacking
in literacy instruction, positive emotional climate, and more
than 35 percent do not provide instructional feedback to
students during lessons.

Teachers’ experience and amount of formal education, as
well as class size, do not relate in meaningful ways
to the observed quality of the classroom environment.

The Society for Research in Child Development has this report and others. See

The NICHD is part of the National Institutes of Health, the biomedical
research arm of the federal government. The Institute sponsors research
on development before and after birth; maternal, child and family health;
reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation.
NICHD publications, as well as information about the Institute, are
available from the NICHD website or from the NICHD Clearinghouse,
1-800-370-2943; Email

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