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Proven Link Between Day Care and Bad Behavior


Q. I've heard it said that day care is turning kids of all income levels into unruly brats who are nightmares for teachers to handle. But isn't that just a guilt trip being laid on working parents, especially working mothers?


It's true that there is a proven link between out-of-home child care in structured settings, and aggressiveness in school settings. However, it is not a guilt trip; it is real.


For years, stay-at-home parents, mostly mothers, have been trivialized by feminists who wrongly believe that a mother or father's care is replaceable by trained professionals, or even that trained professionals are BETTER for a child than the mother or father. However, an important study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at NIH proves the feminist ideology wrong.

The most expansive research of its kind, the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, found that putting a child in day care for a year or more increases the chances that the child will become disruptive in class in the school years on down the road -- a trend that persists through the sixth grade.


Perhaps most telling is the fact that these tendencies were evident despite the child's sex, family income, and even the quality of the day care center in question.


While there were a few benefits of out-of-home child care found by the study, notably an increase in vocabulary, which is a positive development, the news was particularly disappointing to day care advocates who have insisted that any negative effects are entirely contingent on the "quality" of the care.


It was also a shock to public-policy decision-makers, including those who are pushing for more in-school day-care programs, since the implications for the future of American society are so grave. That's because there are so many children in day-care settings right now. It is estimated that 2.3 million American children under the age of 5 are in day care, while 4.8 million are in the care of a relative or nanny, and 3.3 million are at home with their parents. By building more day-care infrastructure, we might be making the behavior problems for teachers in the future worse, not better.


Despite the large number of stay-at-home parents, the government is often lopsided in its support with grant money and tax breaks for families who choose out-of-the-home care for their kids. Meanwhile, research shows that most parents would prefer to tend for their kids themselves. If that's the case, why do government policies undercut parental choice and care?


What should parents do, then, especially if they really need day care?


The options are plentiful:


n       Cut your personal and household spending so that one parent can stay home full-time.


n       The parent who's staying home can obtain work that can be completed at home during the hours the child is napping or late-evening and early-morning hours.


n       The second parent can work part-time, since the behavior issues weren't as major when the child was only in day-care part-time.


Homework: Learn more about the study's findings on


By Susan Darst Williams Ages & Stages 111 2008


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