Your Day Care Choice May Have an Impact on Your Child's Later Success in School
There are obviously many reasons you want to take care when choosing a good day care provider for your infant or toddler. Add this to the list: Your day care provider might affect how well your child does on tests in high school.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health released a study Thursday that concludes children who attend high-quality day care centers as infants and toddlers do slightly better on academic tests at age 15 than kids who were in lower-quality centers.
This study, USA Today reports, is the largest and longest running of its kind. Researchers looked at 1,364 kids, regularly evaluating them from their second months of life. According to the newspaper, the study began in 1991 out of concern about the growing number of children in day care.
The amount of time spent in day care also apparently plays a role in later development. Researchers found the children who spent the most time in day care grew up to act more impulsively and take more risks than their peers.
According to the study, published in the May/June issue of the journal Child Development, kids who spent more time in high-quality day care were slightly less likely to act out as teens. Researchers added, however, that the pattern remained remarkably constant -- holding up with little change throughout the children's lives.
"The fact that you have this persistent association is pretty remarkable," James A. Griffin, a spokesman for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, tells MSNBC.
Some authorities say the findings illustrate the need for local, state and federal governments, as well as employers and others, to improve access to decent day care.
"I think it is shocking that we don't have a much higher proportion of our children ... in excellent, quality child care," Sharon Landesman Ramey, director of the Georgetown University Center on Health and Education, tells MSNBC.
Nearly 90 percent of the kids in the study, in keeping with national statistics, spent some time in day care with someone other than their mother by age 4½.
But the study has limitations. Because parents chose day care centers and providers, other factors than day care might affect children's later test scores. Researchers tell USA Today the only way to definitively prove the role of day care would be to randomly assign children to different providers.
Griffin told USA Today earlier that results from the study indicate that parents have "far more influence" on children's development than day care.
The study suggests day care "matters, but not hugely," W. Steven Barnett, professor of education economics and public policy and director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, tells USA Today.
Barnett adds that parents shouldn't fret over small differences in programs. His only caveat, he tells USA Today, is to avoid putting kids in day care for very long hours.
Related: Day Cares Send Sick Kids Home Too Quickly, Study Says
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.