NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Evidence Child Care Leads To Behavioral Problems

April 19, 2001

A new study concludes that children who spend most of their time in child care are three times as likely to exhibit behavioral problems in kindergarten than those who are cared for primarily by their mothers.

The study was financed by the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, a branch of the National Institutes of Health. Detailed results of the study have yet to be published and it has not yet undergone peer review. But it is widely regarded as the most comprehensive examination of child care to date.

  • The study found a direct correlation between time spent in child care and traits such as aggression, defiance and disobedience.
  • Development of such traits held true regardless of the type or quality of care, the sex of the child, the family's socioeconomic status or whether mothers themselves provided sensitive care.
  • Jay Belsky, one of the study's principal investigators, said children who spent more than 30 hours a week in child care "are more demanding, more noncompliant, and they are more aggressive" -- adding that they score higher on categories such as getting in lots of fights, cruelty, bullying, meanness and talking too much.
  • While the researchers do not yet have an explanation for the pattern, they theorize that child care providers are not trained to give emotional support, or perhaps parents are overworked.

They stressed that the children's demands and aggressions were "in the normal range" and not so severe as to require medical attention.

Source: Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Researchers Find a Link Between Behavioral Problems and Time in Child Care," New York Times, April 19. 2001.


Browse more articles on Education Issues