The positive impact of childcare starts early

A new study investigates the impact of childcare from birth to 51 months on children’s cognitive development at 51 months.

Published in the International Journal of Behavioral Development, it used data from the Families, Children and Child Care study, which recorded the details of 978 children in London and Oxfordshire. Information on family demographics, the home environment, and duration and quality of childcare were captured at various time points. Cognitive ability at 51 months was measured using the British Ability Scales, which measures verbal ability (eg, verbal comprehension and naming vocabulary) and non-verbal ability (eg, pattern construction and picture similarities).

Group-based care was beneficial for cognitive development and non-verbal ability (but not verbal ability) before school entry. Home-based care, whether by paid or unpaid carers, relatives or non-relatives, had relatively little impact. The quality of group-based care had only marginal positive effects, although the sample size for this part of the study was small.

Unusually, the participants in the study included a substantial number of advantaged families. Professional families and mothers with university degrees were both associated with higher cognitive scores, but even taking those factors into account there was still a small but significant added value of group-based childcare.

Source: Amount and Timing of Group-Based Childcare from Birth and Cognitive Development at 51 Months (2016), International Journal of Behavioral Development.

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