CHAPEL HILL - At age 4-and-a-half, children in better quality child care score higher on tests of thinking and language skills than others who stay home or who receive lower-quality care, a major national study concludes. Those findings mirror results reported two years ago for the same children at age 3.
The study also found, however, that youngsters spending more time in child care in general and center-based care in particular were somewhat more aggressive than other children who spent less time there or who remained at home. Whether that heightened aggression is a problem that will continue -- or might even be an advantage -- remains to be seen, say researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and nine other U.S. research sites who did the work.
Drs. Martha Cox and Margaret Burchinal led UNC's participation in the continuing multi-year project, which has followed more than 1,300 children since birth and is sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
"This is an important study because this is the age during which children make the transition into school, and there are a number expectations that we haven't imposed on them in quite the same way before," Cox said. "They go to school and are expected to have or attain skills related to reading and also cooperate in routines that are much more formal than what they were used to."
Cox is a principal investigator for the study, senior scientist and research professor of psychology at the university's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center. Burchinal directs the center's design and statistical unit and serves as methodologist for the entire study, which is the largest long-term investigation of its kind ever undertaken.
They and other scientists presented the findings at the Minneapolis Convention Center Thursday (April 19) at a meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development.