Working parents just can’t catch a break. A new study on the effects of daycare on children, reported yesterday in the New York Times and elsewhere, found that preschoolers who went to day care for a year or longer tended to have more behavior problems in the classroom, up through sixth grade. That’s one of the findings from the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, financed by the federal government, which looked at more than 1,300 kids. On the positive side, the study also found that the daycare kids had a better vocabulary than other kids, but that news seems to have been lost in the hoopla.
The fact is that daycare is a fact for many working parents in this city and around the nation. And the fact is that we are not talking about abuse here, or long term harm to the little ones. What it sounds like is that daycare produces children more comfortable in a group setting, more rambunctious, less easily cowed, perhaps, by an authority figure like a teacher. Stop the presses. Anyone who’s spent more than 10 minutes in a fourth-grade classroom knows that children are, in general, disruptive. It’s the nature of childhood. We should all have that kind of energy.
But at the same time, this study could make us look at what it is exactly about a daycare setting that brings out what we adults like to call “problem behaviors.”