Caring for Child Care

Article excerpt

Roughly three-quarters of preschool children spend a significant part of each week in the care of someone other than their parents. A few decades ago, that statistic might have sparked worries about a social revolution.

Today, it's simply a fact of life, driven by a desire or need among many parents to stay in the workforce.

But worries about what child care does for children still simmer. And a new study has fanned new life into an old debate.

The study followed the lives of more than 1,300 children from infancy through kindergarten. It was sponsored by a branch of the National Institutes of Health, and is the most extensive such research ever done.

It found that 17 percent of the children who spent more than 30 hours a week in child care were prone to aggressiveness and impatience when they reached kindergarten - a considerably higher percentage than for children with fewer hours away from their parents. The study also notes that children who attend higher- quality care programs with better-trained staff are ahead of their peers in language skills and have fewer behavior problems.

These findings are neither an indictment nor an endorsement of child care. Even among kids who spent the most time in child care, 83 percent didn't give their kindergarten teachers problems. …