High-Quality Childcare: Good for Kids, Good for Moms

“Balancing the competing needs of work and family life is a challenge for most households, but the difficulties may be greatest for households with young children, defined here as newborns through age five. Parents in many of these families struggle to find sufficient time both to fulfill work responsibilities and provide the intensive care that young children require.” The Future of Children: Work and Family

The first difficult and very important work and family decision a parent makes is who will care for the child while the parent is working. Choosing childcare is one of the largest stressors that a parent faces when returning to work.

A new study in the journal Child Development finds that high-quality early child care can have a significant impact on children’s wellbeing, and is important for mothers as well. High-quality child care is not about drilling children in educational facts, but more about low student to teacher ratio, age appropriate books and toys, and teachers who are attentive to the children and their developmental needs.

“Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin looked at data from more than 1,300 children whose care settings were evaluated at various intervals from the time they were a month old until they turned 4 ½. Their mothers were interviewed too. Those moms whose kids were cared for early on in “high-quality non-parental care” settings–either in day care centers or in others’ homes–were more likely than mothers who cared for their kids themselves or sent them to low-quality day care to be involved in their children’s schools starting in kindergarten… Robert Crosnoe, a professor of sociology in the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin who led the study, notes that “children make a smoother transition to school when families and schools are strongly connected.”

(Time Healthland- February 15, 2012)

As noted in the Future of Children’s Work and Family volume, formal (center- or school-based) early childhood education and care received immediately before kindergarten appears to promote school readiness. Children, particularly those who are disadvantaged, who attend prekindergarten in the year before formal schooling begin that formal schooling with better math and reading skills, although some of these gains may be transitory or offset by later compensatory education that targets less-prepared children. Head Start participation is also associated with better dental care and overall health as well as with reductions in obesity.

Despite these positive findings, however, the volume is careful to note that, when taken together, research findings related to early childhood care and education are ambiguous, due in part to the high variability in services provided and the difficulty of determining which outcomes are of key interest (for example, cognitive test scores at school entry versus long-term educational and developmental outcomes.)

The one finding that remains certain from the current research base is that quality of care matters. High-quality care mitigates any negative consequences of early childhood care and education and enhances its benefits.

For more on this issue, go to the Future of Children Work and Family chapter on “Policies to Assist Parents with Young Children.”

5 thoughts on “High-Quality Childcare: Good for Kids, Good for Moms

  1. Monty

    Very relevant question has been raised by Nanny share. This is very true that not everyone can afford to have such expensive alternatives. there must be some separate funds only for low income people so that their childerns can also receives equal treatment and can live their life in future.
    We all have to put our efforts in it so that we can build a strong and balanced future for us.

  2. Nannyshare

    Most mums go about asking childcare recommendations from families and friends eventually benefiting everyone. But, not every low income households may afford to have one, provided there are some kinds of schemes either via governments, trusts or private organisations.

  3. Cindy

    Both of our children, now in their 20’s went to a good quality, reputable day care center. They were not just “baby sat” but were worked with and they have grown to very sociable, intelligent adults.

    Realizing there are a multitude of rearing factors but when compared to home schooled friends or children whose first major out of the home experience was kindergarten, our kids seemed more advanced.

    So I couldn’t agree more with this article.

    1. Angel

      Cindy, childhood experiences are more complex then saying one way is better than another. There are many factors to consider one is that children are not loved by early childhood educators or parents either sometimes I suppose. Research has arguments for and against many alternate ways of raising children other than by their families. Child care should not be a replacement for a family and when children are in for 8-10 hours a day they are being raised in child care environments without love and life long lasting relationships. Perhaps they know their shapes and colours and can wait in line without pushing their neighbour but is that better than feeling loved and special to at least one other person? What criteria do you use to assess social and intelligent values that you judge your children as being more advanced than others you know? Perhaps you are bias because your children went to child care? Family and alternate child care arrangement can produce everything a child care centre can but a child care centre cannot replace a family with love.

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