Pre-K Child Care Affects IQ, Impulsiveness of Teenagers

May 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm Leave a comment

Working Mom with ToddlerGood news (for the most part) for working moms:  teenagers who had higher quality child care performed significantly better in cognitive tests and had fewer adolescent behavioral problems than those given low-quality or no care outside the home.

Research published in May 2010 by Deborah Lowe Vandell, professor at UC Irvine followed 1,000 children from their births in 1991 to age 15 to identify the effects of childcare outside the home.  Surprisingly, the childcare received in the critical birth-to-kindergarten years continued to show effects over 10 years later.  Those receiving higher quality care scored 5.3 points higher (100 points is average) on cognitive tests.   They also had fewer problems “acting out” as teens.  Previously released research had concluded that the positive academic effects were apparent for these children in fifth grade.

What constitutes “high quality”?  According to The Wall Street Journal coverage of the research,

“High-quality care was defined as an environment in which care-givers or teachers were warm, engaged and sensitive to a child’s needs, and provided cognitive stimulation through activities that would promote language, such as reading, conversation and game-playing”

There was some bad news: regardless of the quality of care, the study found that greater the number of hours in care outside the home, the higher the likelihood that at 15, the teenagers would engage in risky or impulsive behavior such as driving without a seatbelt or drinking.    The LA Times coverage of the study explained that “teens rated themselves about 16% more rash in their behavior for every additional 10 hours they spent per week in day care as a preschooler.”  However, since the study was conducted, childhood development experts have made progress in understanding how to improve attention and manage impulsive behaviors which may mitigate these effects.

It’s important to note that there is a high possibility of bias in that parents who chose high quality care might be more likely to provide better opportunities for learning in the home as well.

More information on the study: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development

Entry filed under: Childcare & Schools, Research, Social Skills. Tags: , , , , , .

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