To evaluate studies of child care with specific attention to the impact of age at entry and amount, quality, and type of care on children's adaptive functioning.
MEDLINE, PsychINFO, and the SAGE Full-Text Collection.
The review considers correlational and experimental research conducted throughout the world that includes an adequate description of the type of care provided.
Amount, quality, and type of child care.
Main Outcome Measures
Language, cognitive and social competence, achievement, behavioral problems, relationships with parents, communicable illnesses, and asthma.
Children who began care early in life and were in care 30 or more hours a week were at increased risk for stress-related behavioral problems. Elevated risk was more likely if they had difficulties interacting with peers or had insensitive parents. Children in day care centers had higher language scores and early school achievement, especially if they came from disadvantaged backgrounds and the centers offered high-quality care. Attending arrangements with 6 or more children increased the likelihood of communicable illnesses and ear infections, albeit those illnesses had no long-term adverse consequences.
Child care is a multidimensional phenomenon. Guidance on when to place a child in nonparental care and what kind of care to use is complicated because of the multiplicity of sometimes offsetting effects on children. Child care experiences interact with experiences at home and the child's own characteristics, and research indicates that the quality of child care matters.