High-quality childcare can yield long-term benefits

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Little ones whose childcare providers emphasize activities that build language skills, reading ability and cooperation in games may reap the benefits through their teen years, according to new research published today in the journal Child Development. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine tracked more than 1,000 children from birth to age 15 in the first study to examine the long-term effects of childcare outside of the home, the Wall Street Journal reports. The study found that children who had the most engaging, high-quality childcare at a very young age, experienced lasting academic benefits from such care through age 15.

These latest findings from the Early Child Care Research Network — a federally funded research project into American childcare that was launched in 1991 — expand on those from an earlier study that examined the impact of childcare quality on 4½-year-olds about to enter kindergarten. As lead author Deborah Lowe Vandell, chairwoman of the department of education at the UC Irvine told the Journal:

“The effects didn’t fade away… Lots of things change after [age] four and a half. We would have expected [the effects] went away.”

The early benefit seen by age 4½ seems to persist through adolescence, the researchers found. Yet, in addition to tracking long-term academic benefits of high-quality care, the study also revealed that children who spent time in childcare were more slightly likely to engage in impulsive or risky behavior than those who did not attend childcare outside of the home. As the Los Angeles Times explains:

“In terms of risk-taking, the link to time spent in day care was more marginal: Ten more hours a week in day care prompted the average teen to answer one out of 30 questions with an admission of more risky behavior.”