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NICHD Child Care Study Investigators to Report on Child Care Quality Higher Quality Care Related to Less Problem Behavior

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January 26, 1999

Researchers affiliated with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) study of early child care will report that, in general, day care in the United States is "fair," but not outstanding. They will also report that several factors in the day care setting influence social competence (a child's ability to get along with peers). In addition, the researchers will state that parents have an important influence on their children's development, even when the children spend many hours in care.

The researchers will present these and other findings at a press briefing at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, on Saturday, January 23 at noon, Pacific Time in the Palos Verdes room of the Anaheim Hilton Hotel, in Anaheim, California.

Initiated by the NICHD and conducted by investigators at the NICHD and 14 universities around the country, the study was spurred by the increase in the use of early child care over the past decade. In 1991, the NICHD study of early child care enrolled more than 1,300 families and their children from 10 locations throughout the United States. The children, who were less than one month old at the time they were enrolled in the study, have been followed through their first grade year.

"Day care has come into increasing use in recent years," said NICHD Director Dr. Duane Alexander. "NICHD's far reaching, comprehensive study will continue to provide valuable insights into what is, for many families, an absolute necessity."

At the AAAS briefing, several researchers from the study will present their findings:

  • Dr. Cathryn L. Booth will report that the quality of child care in the U.S. is fair--neither outstanding nor terrible. To reach this conclusion, she and the other researchers in the network combined analyses from the 1995 National Household Education Survey along with results from the NICHD study of early child care. The researchers noted that their conclusion needs to be confirmed by a nationally representative study of the quality of child care in the U.S. Until such a study can be conducted, however, the NICHD study of early child care investigatorsâcombined estimate may serve as the best overall estimate for the quality of child care in the U.S. The researchers also suggest possible ways for improving the nation's child care: by improving the ratio of child care givers to children, lowering group sizes, increasing care givers' levels of education, and increasing the safety and intellectual stimulation of child care settings.
  • Dr. Deborah Lowe Vandell will report that such factors as a family's income, mothers' psychological well-being, and maternal behavior have more of an influence on children's social competence at 2 and 3 years of age than does the children's day care arrangement. However, quality child care was related to children displaying greater social competence and cooperation and less problem behavior at 2 and 3 years of age. Also, more experiences in groups with other children predicted more cooperation with other children and fewer problem behaviors at both 2 and 3 years of age. Finally, the consistency of the day care setting also played a role in the development of social competence. At age 2, children who had been in a number of different day care arrangements showed more problem behaviors than did children who had been in fewer day care arrangements.
  • Dr. Margaret Tresch Owen will report that child care experience has no discernible influence on the security of children's attachments to their mothers by age 3. Earlier reported findings from the NICHD study indicated that more experience with child care and lower quality child care in infancy were only related to secure infantsâ attachments to their mothers when mothers were relatively insensitive to their infants. In general, the education of the mothers was more strongly related to positive qualities of maternal care than was the amount or quality of child care. However, mothers were slightly more positive and supportive with their children when less child care was used or when child care quality was higher.
  • Dr. Alison Clarke-Stewart will report that parents have an important influence on children's development regardless of how much child care their children experience. Comparisons between children in child care and those experiencing exclusive care from their mothers tell us little until we consider the quality of care. High quality child care offers an advantage to children and low quality care a disadvantage for cognitive and language development compared to care from the average mother.

"These findings are extremely important," said Dr. Sarah L. Friedman, NICHD coordinator of the study and one of its investigators. "The children in our study come from across the nation, from all walks of life--they experience child care ranging from the most informal (care by a relative) to the most structured (center care).

Dr. Friedman added that the children were observed repeatedly at home and in child care from the time they were six months of age. "This gives us confidence in the conclusions of our research and its relevance to decisions made regarding child care and the well being of children."

Investigators participating in the NICHD Early Child Care Study

Mark Appelbaum
University of California at San Diego
(619) 534-7959
(619) 534-7190 fax

Dee Ann Batten
Vanderbilt University
(615) 343-1476
(615) 343-1100 fax

Jay Belsky
Pennsylvania State University
(814) 865-1447
(814) 863-6207 fax

Kimberly Boller*
Mathematica Policy Institute
(609) 275-2341

Cathryn Booth
University of Washington at Seattle
(206) 543-8074
(206) 685-3349 fax

Robert Bradley
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
(501) 569-3423
(501) 569-8503 fax

Celia Brownell
University of Pittsburgh
(412) 624-4510
(412) 624-4428 fax

Peg Burchnal
Research Triangle Institute
(919) 966-5059
(919) 962-5771

Bettye Caldwell
Arkansas Children's Hospital,
Department of Pediatrics
(501) 320-3333
(501) 320-1552 fax

Susan Campbell
University of Pittsburgh
(412) 624-8792
(412) 624-5407 fax

Alison Clarke-Stewart
University of California at Irvine
(714) 824-7191
(714) 824-3002 fax

Martha Cox
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
(919) 966-2622
(919) 966-7532 fax

Sarah L. Friedman
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
(301) 496-9849
(301) 480-7773 fax

Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek
Temple University
(215) 204-5243
(215) 204-5539 fax

Aletha Huston
University of Texas at Austin
(512) 471-0753
(512) 471-5844 fax

Elizabeth Jaeger
Temple University
(215) 204-7894
(215) 204-5539 fax

Bonnie Knoke
Research Triangle Institute
(919) 541-7075
(919) 541-5966 fax

Nancy Marshall
Wellesley College
(617) 283-2551
(617) 283-2504 fax

Kathleen McCartney
University of New Hampshire
(603) 862-3168
(603) 862-4986 fax

Marion O'Brien
University of Kansas
(913) 864-4801
(913) 864-5202 fax

Margaret Tresch Owen
University of Texas at Dallas
(972) 883-6876
(214) 883-2491 fax

Chris Payne
Western Carolina Center
(704) 438-6532
(704) 438-6531 fax

Deborah Phillips
National Academy of Sciences
(202) 334-1935
(202) 334-3768 fax

Robert Pianta
University of Virginia at Charlottesville
(804) 243-5483
(804) 243-5480 fax

Henry Ricciuti*
Cornell University
(607) 255-0844
(607) 255-9856

Susan Spieker
University of Washington at Seattle
(206) 543-8453
(206) 324-7261 fax

Deborah Lowe Vandell
University of Wisconsin at Madison
(608) 263-1902
(608) 263-6448 fax

Kathleen Wallner-Allen*
Research Triangle Institute
(301) 496-9849
(301) 480-7773

Marsha Weinraub
Temple University
(215) 204-7183
(215) 204-5539 fax

*Affiliated with the NICHD during the course of the Early Child Care Study.

Last Updated Date: 07/18/2006
Last Reviewed Date: 07/18/2006

Contact Information

NIH News
NICHD Press Office
301-496-5133

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