Day Care And Future Academic Performance

There are a great many obvious reasons for wanting to choose the best possible day care provision for your baby or toddler. Now you can add one more reason to the list: The quality of your child's day care may affect his future academic performance.

A report authored by researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released in May 2010 found that infants and toddlers who go to the top-quality day care centers do a bit better on high school tests at the age of 15 than do kids from second rate centers.

Vast Numbers

This was a very large and lengthy trial involving 1,364 children and numerous evaluations beginning at the age of 2 months. The study was begun in 1991 due to concerns about the vast numbers of children enrolled in long-term day care.


The researchers found that the amount of time a child spends in day care does have an apparent effect on his later development. The team found that those children who spent the largest amount of time in day care tended to be more impulsive as they grew to maturity and were less hesitant about taking risks than others their age.

The study suggests that children who spent a lengthy amount of time in high-quality day care facilities had less of a tendency to act out during adolescence. The researchers said that this pattern of behavior remained consistent throughout the lives of the children.

A spokesman for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, James A. Griffin commented, "The fact that you have this persistent association is pretty remarkable."

Quality Care

Authorities who reviewed these findings state that they prove the need for government officials at every level as well as employers and parents to act so that it will be easier for all children to receive quality day care. The director of Health and Education at the Georgetown University Center, Sharon Landesman Ramey said, "I think it is shocking that we don't have a much higher proportion of our children ... in excellent, quality child care."

Of the kids in the study, some 90% had spent time being cared for by someone other than their mothers by the age of 4 1/2. This statistic tallies with the national average. Still, the study is limited. There may be other, unknown factors at play that might affect a child's test scores farther on down the road. In fact, the researchers say that the only way to really prove the effect of day care would be to order the random assignment of children to different day care providers. Griffin feels that the results may even show that the parents have more influence on their children's school success than does the quality of their day care facilities. In other words, a good day care center can help, but is not the central factor in a child's future academic success.

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