Day Care No Worse for Kids Than Family or Nanny Care — And It May Be Better
A new study of more than 1400 children, aged 3 and under, has found that those cared for in a formal creche or nursery school were less likely to have emotional or behavioral problems, and more likely to have better social skills, than children cared for by a family member, family friend, or nanny.
By contrast, children cared for by a nanny were more likely to have behavioral and/or emotional issues. The authors of the study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, say the study was observational, and so they can’t say that formal day care (or nanny care) is responsible for the difference in the children. However, the researchers, from the University of Cambridge, UK, can and do conclude that “access to high quality childcare in the first years of life may improve children’s emotional and cognitive development, prevent later emotional difficulties and promote prosocial behaviours.”
And there’s the rub — high quality. Even as the Indian government has mandated companies provide creches for employees, even as it has developed regulations for such facilities’ physical spaces, child care staff remain a predominantly unskilled labor force. By contrast, in France, where the study was conducted, formal child care is widespread, high quality and highly subsidized by the government. Training and credentials for child care work are required.
That’s not to say an unskilled person cannot care well for a baby or young child. At the end of the day, loving interaction, conversation, and play are the most important aspects of care no matter what age the child is, and that’s not rocket science. But in the absence of any certification that suggests a creche worker knows this, parents will feel more comfortable with the greater degree of control over quality they have when their child is cared for by a family member, a well-trained domestic employee, or most of all, by themselves.
If the government is serious about attracting more women into the workforce, it would do well to set standards for quality care, not just quality creche facilities. There’s no reason a child can’t grow up with appropriate behavioral, emotional and social development in any child care scenario — and no reason parents should have to compromise on quality just to access care.