Past Press Releases


Benefits and Risks of Child Care

April 2001

Children who spent more time in child care centers during the first four-and-a-half years of life-as opposed to other types of child care arrangements-displayed better language skills and had better short-term memory, but were at increased risk for behavior problems by the age of four-and-a-half, compared to other children the same age. This finding will be presented by researchers conducting the NICHD Study of Early Child Care, at a meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development on April 19, at 2:30 p.m., at the Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The NICHD Study of Early Child Care enrolled just over 1,300 children at birth at 10 research sites throughout the United States. Children participating in the on-going study were placed in a variety of child care arrangements, ranging from care with relatives, to care in a home of someone who was not a relative, to care in a center. To date, the researchers have followed the children through infancy, toddlerhood, and the preschool years. Periodically, researchers associated with the study provided updates on the children's progress as they proceed through the childhood years.

Regarding the link between the type of child care that children experienced and children's developmental outcomes at age four-and-a-half, the researchers found that:

  • Care in centers is linked to some benefits in intellectual and language development, but is also associated with a heightened risk of behavior problems, such as aggression and defiance.
  • Center care in infancy is not associated with either positive or negative developmental outcomes.
  • Child care in private homes for preschool-age children may not provide as much stimulation as care in centers.

The researchers noted that caregivers in centers have more training and education than do home-based care providers. For this reason, center caregivers typically provide more verbal stimulation and respond more often to children's early language efforts, which, in turn, promotes language development. Similarly, the greater frequency of structured activities led by teachers may also lead to the children's performing at higher intellectual and linguistic levels.

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