The Effects of Day Care on Children's Emotional and Cognitive Development

The past decade has seen many concerns for parents as to whether placing your child in daycare during the pre-kindergarten years has negative or positive effects on their long-term development and overall well-being. Of course the mother-infant bond is incredibly important, and should never be damaged, but the burning question is whether or not daycare actually does damage that bond, or if it has some positive effects that successfully counteract the negatives. Although the early studies seemed to focus solely on the harm done to children who are put into daycare, more recent studies show that out-of-home care does not appear to damage children's cognitive development or their social and emotional skills in the least-good news for parents!

Choose Your Daycare Wisely

Before you get too excited, most studies agree that if at all possible babies before the age of one do tend to do better when they are with their parent. You must also take into consideration the quality of daycare, as that will definitely have bearing on the final outcome as well. As all parents are aware, you must choose your daycare wisely, and ensure there is a good adult to child ratio, and that all necessary safety features are in place. Talk to lots of other parents whose children attend a particular daycare as they are usually always the very best source of information in making your final decision. If the majority of the parents are happy with the daycare, and the children mostly all seem happy, occupied and healthy, then it is probably a good choice. Depending on where you live, your daycare may or may not require licensing, however if a daycare is state-licensed, you can be fairly sure they have been through some fairly rigorous testing.

Family Still Has More Influence

The parent who worries that his or her child's daycare may end up having more importance in the child's life than the child's family can relax. Even families who use full-time child care have every bit as much influence on their children as the families who use no outside child care. Parents should never feel as if they have relinquished control over their own child, because the family impact will still remain the highest for the children. Of course the day care your child is in will affect his or her development, however high quality day care-the critical component-is related to children who perform well on tests of social and emotional development as well as intellectual development. Low-quality child care can, of course, be the cause of poor performance in these areas. Even the children who were put into day care as babies, and show some negative effects by the age of two, have mostly overcome the negative by the age of three, and certainly by the time they begin kindergarten. Consider, however, that testing children's emotional and intellectual development at age two can be an unsteady gauge--two year olds are, after all, testing every boundary known to man, whether in day care or at home with mom.

Quality Time Spent With Mom and Dad

If we assume that children are safely in a high-quality daycare situation, studies have shown that even though the mothers who stayed home with their children may have more actual time with them, the quality of the time spent with the children does not differ between working and non-working mothers. The working mothers will usually compensate for the time they spend away from their children by doing their best to make sure the time they do have with them is high quality time. The fathers of children in high-quality daycares also appeared to be more involved with parenting duties and the interactions with their children

In the end there is little solid evidence which points to the disruptive effects of daycare, and much of the newer evidence points to positive outcomes for most children in daycare, depending on the quality of the particular daycare as well as the home environment of the child.