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Project DescriptionNICHD PublicationsStudy Results

Publications of the NICHD Early Child Care Research Network

NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Eds). (2005). Child Care and Child Development: Results from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. New York: Guilford Publications.

This important work presents the results of the most comprehensive scientific study to date of early child care and its relation to child development. In one volume, a critical selection of material from the most salient journal articles is brought together with new overviews and a concluding commentary. Provided is a wealth of authoritative information about the ways in which nonmaternal care is linked to health, psychological adjustment, and mother-child bonds in the first six years of life. The study addresses the full complexity of this vital issue, taking into account a range of family characteristics as well as the quality of child care experiences. An essential resource for developmentalists, early child care specialists, and educators, this volume offers compelling new perspectives on practice, policy, and research.

NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (In Press). Child outcomes when childcare center classes meet recommended standards for quality. American Journal of Public Health.

NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (1998). Early child care and self-control, compliance and problem behavior at 24 and 36 months. Child Development, 69, 1145-1170.

To evaluate childcare effects on young children's self-control, compliance, and problem behavior, children enrolled in the NICHD Study of Early Child Care were tested and observed in the laboratory and in child care at 24 and 36 months, and mothers and caregivers completed questionnaires. Indicators of childcare quantity, quality, stability, type and age of entry, along with measures of family background, mothering, and child characteristics obtained through the first three years of life were used to predict two- and three-year child functioning. Results revealed (1) mothering to be a stronger and more consistent predictor of child outcomes than child care; (2) little evidence that early, extensive and continuous care was related to problematic child behavior, in contrast to results from earlier work; (3) that among the childcare predictors, childcare quality was the most consistent predictor of child functioning, though limited variance could be explained by any (or all) childcare variables; and (4) that virtually none of the anticipated interactions among childcare factors or between them and family or child measures proved significant.

NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (1998). Relations between family predictors and child outcomes: Are they weaker for children in child care? Developmental Psychology, 34(5) 1119-1128.

A number of studies suggest that family factors may predict both cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes more powerfully for children reared principally by their parents than those with extensive early nonparental-care experience. In this study, the differential prediction of child outcomes is addressed using a sub-sample of families participating in the NICHD Study of Early Child Care. A variety of demographic, personality/attitudinal, and mothering/relationship variables were employed to predict children's cognitive and socio-emotional development at two and three years of age in two contrasting groups of children: (1) those who averaged 30 or more hours of nonparental care per week for each month of their lives beginning in the fourth month of life; and (2) those who never experienced more than 10 hours per week of routine care by someone other than mother during this period. Multivariate analysis provided no evidence that family factors predicted child outcomes differently in the two groups, although exploratory analyses revealed several instances of differential prediction. Nevertheless, similarities in predictive relations greatly exceeded differences and features of experience presumed to be beneficial for children (e.g., higher family income, less maternal depression, greater maternal sensitivity) predicted more positive social and cognitive developmental outcomes in both groups. Such findings suggest, in the main, that the influence of families is not reduced (or changed) by full-time nonparental care.

NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (1997). Child care in the first year of life. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 43(3), 340-360.

Information on the use, patterning, and stability of nonmaternal child care during the first year of life was examined for 1,281 families in 10 study sites. The vast majority of infants (81 %) experienced regular nonmaternal child care during the first 12 months, with most starting prior to 4 months of age and being enrolled for close to 30 hours per week. Fewer than one in five infants spent the entire first year at home with no supplemental care. Close to half of the infants were cared for by a relative when they first entered care. Infants in child care experienced, on average, more than two nonparental arrangements during the first year. The results reveal high reliance on infant care, very rapid entry into care post-birth, and substantial instability in care.

NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (1997). The effects of infant child care on infant-mother attachment security: Results of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care. Child Development, 68(5), 860-879).

The aims of this investigation were to determine whether Strange Situation attachment classifications were equally valid for infants with and without extensive childcare experience in the first year of life and whether early childcare experience, alone or in combination with mother/child factors, was associated with attachment security, and specifically with insecure-avoidant attachment. Participants were 1,153 infants and their mothers at the 10 sites of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care. Mothers were interviewed, given questionnaires, and observed in play and in the home when their infants were from 1 to 15 months of age; infants were observed in child care at 6 and 15 months and in the Strange Situation at 15 months. Infants with extensive childcare experience did not differ from infants without child care in the distress they exhibited during separations from mother in the Strange Situation or in the confidence with which trained coders assigned them attachment classifications. There were no significant main effects of childcare experience (quality, amount, age of entry, stability, or type of care) on attachment security or avoidance. There were, however, significant main effects of maternal sensitivity and responsiveness. Significant interaction effects revealed that infants were less likely to be secure when low maternal sensitivity/responsiveness was combined with poor quality child care, more than minimal amounts of child care, or more than one care arrangement. In addition, boys experiencing many hours in care and girls in minimal amounts of care were somewhat less likely to be securely attached.

NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (1997). Familial factors associated with characteristics of nonmaternal care for infants. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 59(3), 389-408.

The extent to which family, economic, and psychosocial factors account for age of initiation, amount, type, and quality of nonmaternal infant care was examined for 1,281 children in 10 locations around the U.S. Families were enrolled in the study when the infants were born, and information was collected about naturally occurring patterns of regular nonmaternal care over the first 15 months of the child's life. Economic factors were most consistently associated with the amount and the nature of the nonmaternal care that infants received; maternal personality and beliefs about maternal employment also were factors. Infants who began nonmaternal care between 3 and 5 months of age had mothers who scored highest on extroversion and agreeableness. Children who began nonmaternal care earlier had mothers who believed that maternal employment had greater benefits for children. More nonmaternal care was related to fewer children in the family, lower maternal education, higher maternal income, lower total family income, longer hours of maternal employment, and the mother's belief in the benefits of maternal employment. The type of care was related to the child's ethnicity, household composition, and the mother's concerns about the risks of maternal employment to children. Factors predicting the quality of care varied across different types of care. For care in the child's home or in a childcare home, family income was positively associated with quality. For care in childcare centers, children from both low- and high-income families received higher quality care than those from moderate-income families. These results define the potentially confounding factors to be considered when analyzing the effects of early experiences of nonmaternal care on child outcome.

NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (1997). Poverty and patterns of child care. In J. Brooks-Gunn & G. Duncan (Eds.), Consequences of Growing up Poor (pp. 100-131). New York: Russell-Sage.

Child care for families in poverty is of considerable current interest because of recent legislation requiring welfare recipients, including mothers, to participate in the work force. In the present report, the characteristics of nonmaternal infant care used by families in poverty (income-to-needs ratio < 1.0) during the first 15 months of life were compared with those of families in near-poverty (income-to-needs ratio = 1.0 - 1.99) or who were more affluent. Families living in poverty were less likely to use any child care than other families, but poor children in care received as many hours of care as children from other income groups. Children who were not in care by 15 months of age had mothers with the lowest level of education and were from the largest families. These families also tended to experience persistent poverty. Families who moved in and out of poverty status were likely to place their infants in child care before 3 months of age, probably because the family was heavily dependent on maternal income. In general, children from poor families who were cared for in home settings (by a childcare home provider or family member) received relatively low-quality care, whereas those cared for in childcare centers received care equivalent in quality to that received by children from more affluent families. Children in moderate-income families received care of lower quality in childcare centers than children in poor or affluent families. Typically, families in poverty can receive subsidized center-based care where such care is available. When it is not, poor families have limited childcare options from which to choose, and most of the care available is of low quality.

NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (1996). Characteristics of infant child care: Factors contributing to positive caregiving. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 11, 269-306.

At 6 months of age, 576 infants were observed during 2 half-days in five types of nonmaternal child care (centers, child care homes, in-home sitters, grandparents, and fathers). Settings were assessed in terms of their structural characteristics (groups size, child-adult ratio, physical environment) and caregivers' characteristics (formal education, specialized training, child care experience, and beliefs about child rearing). In addition, caregivers' interactions with infants were observed. Caregivers were rated as providing more positive caregiving when group sizes and child-adult ratios were smaller and when caregivers held less-authoritarian beliefs about child rearing. Significant differences were associated with type of care arrangement. Child-adult ratios and group sizes were largest in centers and smallest in informal in-home care (with fathers, grandparents, and in-home sitters); specialized training was highest in centers. Small group sizes, low child-adult ratios, caregivers' nonauthoritarian child-rearing beliefs, and safe, clean, and stimulating physical environments were consistently associated with positive caregiving behaviors within each of these different types of settings.


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