Magazine article Science News

Infant Daycare: Nothing Beats Quality

Magazine article Science News

Infant Daycare: Nothing Beats Quality

Article excerpt

Children placed in high-quality daycare programs during infancy fare quite well in preschool and elementary school, three new studies suggest. However, investigators also note a stark reality facing many U.S. parents: Good daycare remains either unavailable or unaffordable.

The new reports, presented last week at the American Psychological Association annual meeting in San Francisco, enter a heated debate over the merits of daycare for infants (SN: 7/25/87, p.54). Some scientists argue that quality daycare -- including well-trained staff serving small groups of infants -- promotes social growth and emotional security. Others contend that thrusting babies into daycare of any type often disturbs the mother-child relationship.

Data collected by Tiffany Field of the University of Miami Medical School support the former position. In one study, Field examined 28 children aged 5 to 8 who had entered full-time daycare before age 2 at a University of Miami child center. The children came from two-parent, dual-career families. The center features carefully trained teachers and numerous play activities, with a maximum of 16 infants attending at any one time.

Questionnaires administered to the children and their mothers showed that youngsters in early grade school who had spent the most time in daycare had more friends, displayed greater emotional well-being and assertiveness, and engaged in less aggressive behavior toward others. More than half the children -- 19 to 28 -- now participate in public school programs for the gifted.

In a second study, Field's team examined 56 sixth graders who began fulltime daycare before age 2 in one of six high-quality centers. These 11- to 12-year-olds came from middle-class homes.

Sixth graders who had spent the most time in quality infant daycare received the highest ratings on emotional well-being, assertiveness and attractiveness by their teachers, Field says. …

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