Friday, February 17, 2006

Effect of child care on cognitive development-NICHD study

Important article (Child-Care Effect Sizes for the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development) in current American Psychologist (2006, 61[2],99-116) by the NICHD Early Child Care Research Network re: the effect of child care on a number of outcomes, including cognitive and language abilities. Click here to read......

Abstract and select summary conclusions noted below (italics added by blogmaster)

  • This report summarizes findings from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development as effect sizes for exclusive maternal care and—for children in child care—type, quality, and quantity of care. Children (n = 1,261) were recruited at birth and assessed at 15, 24, 36, and 54 months. Exclusive maternal care did not predict child outcomes, but multiple features of child-care experience were modestly to moderately predictive. Higher quality child care was related to advanced cognitive, language, and preacademic outcomes at every age and better socioemotional and peer outcomes at some ages. More child-care hours predicted more behavior problems and conflict, according to care providers. More center-care time was related to higher cognitive and language scores and more problem and fewer prosocial behaviors, according to care providers. Child-care effect sizes are discussed from 3 perspectives: (a) absolute effect sizes, reflecting established guidelines; (b) relative effect sizes, comparing child-care and parenting effects; and (c) possible individual and collective implications for the large numbers of children experiencing child care. Specifically, whether a child was in child care and child-care quality, quantity, and type were linked to both family characteristics and child outcomes. Families opting to use exclusive maternal care tended to be less advantaged. The mothers choosing exclusive maternal care had less income, less education, more depressive symptoms, and less sensitive parenting skills. In contrast, more advantaged families tended to place their child in higher quality care, in child care for more hours per week, and in center care for a longer period. Higher quality care was associated with more income, two-parent households, more maternal education, less maternal depression, and being in the White ethnic group. Children who experienced more hours of child care or who spent more time in center care tended to be from families with more income and mothers with more education. Use of center care was also associated with more positive parenting. These findings provide further evidence (cf. Lamb, 1998; Vandell, 2004) that family characteristics must be taken into account when asking whether child-care experiences are related to child outcomes
Select highlights
  • Almost no evidence emerged suggesting that child outcomes were related to whether the child experienced routine nonmaternal care (seeNICHD ECCRN, 1998, 2000a). As can be seen in the first column of Table 5, only one outcome—the Bayley Mental Development Index assessed at 24 months—showed statistically significant differences between children reared exclusively in maternal care and children experiencing child care. Use of child care was not significantly or substantively related to cognitive outcomes at 15, 36, or 54 months or to social or peer outcomes at any age. Follow-up analyses asked whether quality of parenting was more strongly related to outcomes depending on whether the child was cared for exclusively by the mother. None of the interactions achieved statistical significance
  • Overall, parenting showed moderate-to-large effect sizes, suggesting that children who experienced more responsive and stimulating care from parents had higher scores on cognitive, language, social-emotional, and peer outcomes at all ages.
  • Longitudinal analyses from 24 to 54 months (adjusted statistically for family selection factors by including these as covariates) documented clear and, for the most part, consistent relations between child-care experience during the infant, toddler, and preschool years and children's cognitive, language, and socioemotional development. Overall, parenting emerged as a consistent and strong predictor of all child outcomes, child-care quality was a consistent and modest predictor of most child outcomes, child-care quantity was a consistent and modest predictor of social behavior, and child-care type was an inconsistent and modest predictor of cognitive and social outcomes. In addition, comparisons between children with exclusive maternal care and children in child care yielded only one significant difference over time and across outcomes—a rate less than what would be expected by chance alone. These findings provide compelling evidence that knowledge about whether a child is in care, in and of itself, cannot inform predictions of child development. Knowledge concerning variations in multiple features of parenting and child-care experience for those children in child care can inform such predictions.

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