Day care behavior problems not major concern, child care expert says

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A recent study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that children who spent time in child care centers had more behavior problems, but children in high-quality centers had better vocabularies than their peers.

Dr. Angela Nievar, assistant professor of development and family studies at the University of North Texas, says the findings about behavior problems are a concern, but she says it's more important for parents to spend quality time with their kids. Nievar, an expert in mother-child attachment and parental empowerment, has worked on the large national study about child care, but she did not participate in this most recent part of the study.

"We're not talking about serious problems here. This does not mean that the children are going to be juvenile delinquents," Nievar says of the behavior problems cited in the study, released March 26.

However, she says children who receive little time with their parents during their early years because both parents work long hours, coupled with parents who are stressed, are a concern. Children who are in child care centers for 10 or 12 hours a day may not have enough time with their parents to develop a secure emotional relationship, Nievar says.

"The study emphasized that the quality of parenting is much more important than any other factor in a child's life, and obviously, quantity of parenting matters, too," she says. "Young children also have trouble with large group sizes in getting their emotional needs met. Some other studies have shown this is particularly true for children that are naturally shy or timid."

She agreed that children who receive high-quality care have better vocabularies.

"Theoretically, they hear more adult language in child care centers, and they have to use more language to get their needs met and interact with their teachers and friends," Nievar says.

The same could be done at home, she notes.

"If parents talk to their children frequently at home, ‘bathing the child in language,' as one professor put it, they should have a better vocabulary," she says.

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