Effects of Daycare on Children

Ever since women entered the workforce, the great daycare debate has raged on. Parents, scholars and politicians have argued the pros and cons of external childcare facilities until families are absolutely certain placing their child in day care results in either an infant prodigy or a teenage delinquent.

As with any issue, the truth has been found to be somewhere in between. Day care can be a tremendous opportunity for a young child to learn social skills, expand their vocabulary and learn to function as an individual away from their parents; constant interaction with their peers allows them to develop a respect for the opinions and emotions of others, learn the value of teamwork, and to form friendships that will often carry into their school years. They are also given an opportunity to learn basic academic skills at an earlier age, and adapt to the more rigid structure of a classroom environment prior to entering Kindergarten, easing what is often a difficult transition for children who are kept at home in their preschool years.

On the flip side of the coin, not all day care providers are able to give the high quality of attention and education necessary for growth and adjustment. This is often due to an inadequate amount of staff for the number of children a facility cares for. Many times by the time a child reaches preschool age there is only one teacher responsible for up to fifteen students, if not more (licensing guidelines state that there should be no more than fifteen students per teacher at the four and five year old level; however, a fluctuating population of drop-in students may cause this number to be nothing more than a myth). The results of a long term study done by the National Institute of Health showed that those children who spent a great amount of time in a lower quality daycare displayed more instances of aggressive behavior and demands for constant, individual attention, a trend that continued through the sixth grade. This behavior may stem from the need to compete for attention from a very young age, and is displayed in children of large families as well. Those children who are quiet and well behaved are set to the side while the teachers struggle to deal with the children who are not so self sufficient; is it any wonder, then, that this often results in these children learning to emulate the less than savory behavior of their peers, whom they see receiving the individual attention they crave?

The key to a positive day care experience is to carefully screen any day care before a child is enrolled. The school should have a low staff to child ratio, with one adult to every two or three children at the infant level, gradually rising as the child increases in age but still sufficient for individual attention. The teachers should display a genuine love for the children, with experience and training in child development and psychology, allowing them to quickly detect a problem with a student before it becomes uncontrollable. Parents should remain in contact with the child's teacher, receiving progress reports and observing classroom behavior on a regular basis. Any instance in which a parent is deliberately left "out of the loop" in their child's education, even at this early stage, is cause for concern, and should be considered an immediate warning sign that all is not as it should be. In this case knowledge is power, and allows a child to quickly be removed from an unsuitable situation before damage is done that is irreversible.


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