NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Day Care's Down Side

November 8, 1999

There is a "small but significant link" between the amount of time an infant or toddler spends in day care and somewhat poorer mother-child interaction. Scoring videotapes of mothers playing with their children, researchers rated maternal "sensitivity" in their interactions and the child's engagement with his mother.

  • The study compared young children who were in child-care 40 hours a week with those who were not in child care at all.
  • Longer hours spent in child care in the first three years tend to mean less positive interaction between mother and child -- affecting their relationship, but not significant enough to disrupt secure bonding between mother and child.
  • The researchers found about a 2 percent relative difference in positive mother-child interaction.

The ongoing National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care had earlier reported more positive findings about the effects of day care on children.

Source: Karen S. Peterson, "Day Care Can Distance Mother and Child," and "'Small But Significant' Finding: Kids Thrive on More Mom, Less Day Care," USA Today, November 8, 1999.


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