Friday, May 14, 2010

Effects of high-quality child care persist into high school

Oh, boy, the new Child Development is out, but their website won't give me access to the full articles, for some reason, though I'm logged in, so I have to rely on Eurekalert's reporting.

The first article uses the  NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development to track the effects of child care to age 15. They found modest improvements in academics and behavior in kids who were in high-quality care compared with lower-quality care, and kids who spent the most time in any kind of child care self-reported more impulsiveness and risk taking at 15. "High-quality care was characterized by the caregivers' warmth, support, and cognitive stimulation of the children under their care."

The study's findings were consistent among boys as well as girls. In addition, previous studies had suggested that child care could have benefits for children from economically disadvantaged homes. So the researchers created a risk index with such factors as family income, the mother's level of education, and mothers' reports of depression symptoms, dividing their group into three based on risk. Both the achievement and behavior patterns they had found were consistent across all three groups.

In other words, the kinds of effects child care and high-quality child care have been shown to have at 4 or 5 continue at least through age 15. Because it is a tenet of my child-development world view that kids with  poor, uneducated, or depressed moms benefit more from high-quality child care than others, I would expect the effects to be greater among those kids, but they weren't, which means I will need to rethink some policy positions that follow from that. That's the bad part about believing in evidence. You have to keep rethinking things.

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