February 14, 2011

Childcare Quality: Key for Disadvantaged Kids

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Children who come from disadvantaged homes and have lower-quality childcare may have more social and emotional problems, according to new research. However, high-quality childcare may make up for poorer home environments.

Researchers analyzed data on children at ages 2, 3 and 4 ½ who came from more difficult home environments and had lower-quality childcare.

Difficult family environments were defined by fewer resources, fewer learning opportunities, and less sensitivity and acceptance of the child. Lower-quality childcare was characterized by fewer observed learning opportunities, caregivers who used negative or neutral facial expressions and tone of voice, and caregivers who gave insensitive responses. The researchers also assessed the children's age, race, ethnicity, the family's resources, and the hours per week that the children spent in non-maternal care.

Results showed that children in difficult home and childcare environments had more social-emotional problems such as being anxious or fearful; behaving disruptively or aggressively; or being less helpful, friendly and open to peers. On the flip side, researchers found that when children who grow up in disadvantaged homes are enrolled in high-quality childcare, the care may compensate for the children's challenging home environments.

"This pattern of findings is consistent with existing evidence that the quality of child care that young children experience may matter more for those from more disadvantaged home environments," Sarah Enos Watamura, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Denver, who directed the investigation, was quoted as saying. "The study also confirms the importance of integrating early intervention strategies and policies across home and childcare environments."

SOURCE: Child Development, Feb. 2011