Daycare and the Effects on Children
With the triumphs of welfare reform and the high turnout of women college graduates, mothers are increasingly, entering the workforce. As affirmed by the Wilson Quarterly (Autumn 98, Vol. 22 Issue 4), “Ben Wildavsky, a staff correspondent for the National Journal (Jan. 24, 1998), provides statistical background. In 1997, nearly 42 percent of women with children under six were working full-time, 5 percent were looking for work, 18 percent had part-time jobs, and 35 percent were not working outside the home” (p.115). Using these figures it is said that 65 percent of women with children aged younger than six are working or would like to be. Daycare is a necessity for the majority of working American mothers.
Within the past 20 years child social developmentalists have gathered facts and evidence to show that unless children gain minimal social competence by the age of six, they have a high probability of being at risk throughout life. (Denham & Burton, 1996) Thus peer relationships contribute a great deal to both social and cognitive development and to the effectiveness with which we function as adults. Others suggest that the number of caregivers and the amount of time children spend away from parents’ harms parent-child relationships thus, weakening cognitive and emotional development (Kelly, 2000). This paper will discuss the effects of daycare on children and how to choose one of high quality.
Many daycare opponents believe bonding, a strong emotional attachment that forms between a child and parent, is disrupted when mothers and fathers rely on others to be substitute parents. Children who are securely bonded to parents are more confident in their explorations of their environment and have a higher sense of self-esteem than children who are insecurely bonded to their parents. Dr. Stanley Greenspan, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at George Washington University Medical School, who has authored several books including the recent book, The Irreducible Needs of Children says, “A warm, loving human relationship is very important for intellectual development. Children form their capacity to think and self-image based on these back-and-forth interactions. Fewer of these are happening, because families are so busy and more care is being done outside the home. Studies show that for all ages, 85 percent of day care is not high quality” (Kelly, 2000, p. 65).
It has been further proven that the issue is, the quality of the care given in daycare that makes the difference in regards to cognitive, language, and socio-emotional functions. The more quality care the more positive the functional developments. Placing a child in daycare does not exclude them from forming warm, human relationships in contrast it gives them the opportunity to form numerous bonding encounters with other adults and it also permits the formation of strong peer attachments.
A bare reality facing many parents is that quality daycare is hard to find or too expensive. Quality daycare includes a well-trained staff that serves children in small groups. This allows for successful interactions between the caregiver and child. These interactions may be related to cognitive functioning and language development. Preschoolers that have experienced positive interactions given at quality daycare demonstrated better language skills and cognitive functioning than preschoolers who did not experience such childcare as infants. (Burchinal, Lee, and Ramey, 1989) Without these interactions children who receive lower quality daycare or children reared at home scored lower on measures of academic achievement when tested against those children who were experienced.
In the study done at State University of New York College in Buffalo, they explored the relation between time spent in daycare and the quantity and quality of exploratory and problem-solving behaviors in 9-month-old infants. It was hypothesized that, given the presence of high quality care, infants who spent greater amounts of time in center-based care would demonstrate more advanced exploratory and problem-solving behaviors then infants who did not spend as much time in center-based care (Schuetze, Lewis, and DiMartino, 269). The results suggested that the amount of time spent in center-based care predicts more frequent and varied exploratory behaviors and the more successful problem-solving abilities. Infants are motivated to affect and master their environment and high quality daycare centers provide infants with age-appropriate play materials and responsive caregivers who, presumably, are frequently encouraging them to explore their surroundings which, in turn, affords them the opportunity to develop exploratory strategies. (Schuetze, et al, 273).
“Emotional competence is central to children’s ability to interact and form relationships;” as stated in the opening paragraph of the study done by Susanne A. Denham and Rosemary Burton from George Mason University (1996). Their study focuses on the importance of children being able to (1) form a secure attachment with a primary caregiver, (2) acquire the ability to consciously recognize and label emotion and (3) develop skills to problem solving with peers. For when a child forms a secure attachment the child feels confident to explore the social world. When a child has the ability to consciously recognize and label emotion the child has a vehicle with which to regulate emotions. The child who can consider alternative solutions to problems is less likely to take a toy out of the hands of another without consideration of the others desires (Denham, 1996). All of these abilities are better learning in a center based environment were there are more opportunities to develop and master these skills. Early research did support that there were some adverse effects on development for infants attending daycare, such as emotional competence deficits. But these findings presumably are more strongly related to a daycare of poor quality that would neglect social development instead of enhancing it. Recently, research has suggested that infants reared in a daycare setting do not suffer any long-term consequences from center-based care (Clarke-Stewart, Gruber, and Fitzgerald, 1994; NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 1997).
There are some aspects of daycare that may increase the probability that children will behave in socially inappropriate ways. The relationship between daycare and aggression is currently unclear at the present because of the numerous conflicting conclusions. “Honig and Park (1993) assessed aggressiveness in preschoolers using ratings by head teachers as well as ratings of videotaped free play behaviors in the daycares. They reported that children who had been in daycare longer received higher ratings of instrumental physical, and verbal aggression. In contrast, Hegland and Rix (1990) found no significant difference in observer ratings of aggression when comparing children who had been attending daycare to children with no daycare experience” (DiLalla, 1998, p. 224). Thus, when investigating children who have attended daycare, it appears overall that children who began younger or have been in daycare longer seem to interact more with peers, both pro-socially and aggressively. To define this more clearly, pro-social behavior is “behavior that is designed to help or benefit other people” (Kohlberg, 1984, p. G-7) and aggressive behavior is “behavior that intentionally harms other people by inflicting pain or injury on them” (Kohlberg, 1984, p. 649)
A comprehensive review by Clarke-Stewart (1989) pointed out that it is critical to explore the individual differences in children that may contribute to or protect them from aggressive behaviors in terms of how these individual differences interact with environmental variables such as daycare experience. One obvious factor that should mitigate or exacerbate the deleterious effects of daycare experience might be child temperament. This has not been studied in depth and should add considerably to our understanding to how daycare experience can be related to later aggressiveness as well as later prosocial behavior. (DiLalla, 1998)
The study done by Lisabeth F. DiLalla, failed to demonstrate the importance in considering temperament as a moderator of daycare experiences for the prosocial behaviors in children. Neither daycare experience nor temperament were significantly related to lab ratings of aggression during the first 10 minutes of the experiment, although aggressiveness of the second half of the testing session, boys were more aggressive than girls, and peer aggressiveness was still significantly correlated with proband (subject) aggression; daycare experience and temperament ratings were still not significantly related (DiLalla, 1998).
While daycare advocates are concerned about the general well being of children in daycare and are continuously adopting new policies and regulations nationwide to ensure the safety successes of children in daycare. Over the past decade or so, child abuse in daycare settings has increased significantly. With 1983 as a landmark year, because it was then that children first began disclosing allegations of sexual and ritual abuse in the McMartin pre-school in California (Waterman, Kelly, Oliveri, and McCord, 1993). The affects on children are both far-reaching and detrimental. Some of the risk factors that are associated with child abuse are such as large staff ratios, locations in rural areas, lack of education of day care providers, the presence of adolescent males, and the lack of job satisfaction (Schumacher and Carlson, 896).
Finding quality childcare is one the biggest issues that parents face. The most important aspect in this multi faceted decision process is what kind of care that is needed for the child. There are different kinds of care settings that you might choose; a family daycare home, a childcare center, or in-home care, these various choices make it possible for you to find a good situation to fit best to your needs. Parents should also consider other issues such as availability, affordability, and quality in relation to these settings.
Most parents are unsure of where to look for good care. A good place to start in the search would be the yellow pages of the telephone directory under Child Care of Schools – Preschool. The licensing bureau for childcare centers and daycare homes in your area is another good source. Most parents typical rely on referrals from friends and family or neighbor-hood church sponsored centers.
It is recommended by Leisa Oesterreich an extension specialist in human development and family life at the Iowa State University Extension Childcare Program (1999) that parents visit as least three caregivers or childcare programs. They should be prepared to spend at least one hour. They should expect they following says:
A warm greeting
short introduction to both adults and children
a brief tour
an explanation of fees and policies
an invitation to stay awhile to see the daily routine and children playing
Some questions that parents should ask:
Please describe a typical day.
How do you discipline children?
Do you have CPR and First Aid Training?
What types of food do you serve for meals and snacks?
Are children ever transported in a vehicle? Do you use seatbelts or car seats?
How do you handle emergencies?
Another suggestion to parents by Iowa State University is that parents not be afraid to check references. Ask for at least two parent references. Most parents should be happy to share information with other parents and can be a wonderful resource.
Once you have selected the care, parents should begin to prepare their child for this new experience. If possible, parents should first with their child visit the caregiver in incremental time periods before leaving the child for all day. The skilled staff should be openly helpful in this transition for it may take the child several weeks to get used to the new situation (Oesterreich, 1999).
The National Network for Child Care says that it is important that parents know the regulations set by the licensing bureau in their state. A quality daycare provider would be credentialed as a Child Development Associate. This is a national early childhood professional credential, which requires that you complete 120 hours of specific training, and prepare a professional resource file. CDA candidates must pass a parent opinion survey, a written test, an oral interview, and an on-site observation. The following are statistics that the CDA advises:
RECOMMENDED STAFF: CHILD RATIO
Infants (0-9 months of age)1:4
Toddlers (10-23 moths of age)1:6
4 and 5-year-olds1:15
6 years and over1:20
MAXIMUM GROUP SIZE
Infants (0-9 months of age)8
Toddlers (10-23 moths of age)12
4 and 5-year-olds30
6 years and over40
(Wilson ; Tweedie, 1996).
Quality childcare offers activities that are appropriate for each child’s age, interests and abilities. They do not require children learn certain things, to stand in line, or to sit quietly and listen for more than five to ten minutes. The classrooms are active and pleasantly noisy. Children choose their own play activities and play at their own pace. Rarely are the children doing the same thing at the same time. In developmentally appropriate programs, you see very creative are work. Appropriate programs welcome parents at anytime. Parents share their talents and culture with the group. Family members can come into the center or home and play with the children. Staff schedules time to talk with parents about their child’s development regularly (Wilson, et al, (1996).
If the child is happy and looks forward to going to the place of childcare than the parent knows they have made the right choice. With all of the information available to parents regarding social, cognitive and emotional developmental effects daycare has on children, parents still are left to make choices based on their individual lifestyle. Good childcare can improve the quality of life between parent and child. The experiences that children encounter with other caring adults can broaden the child’s development; the play with other children helps a child gain mental and social skills.
Daycare and the Effects on Children