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3 New Studies Assess Affects of Child Care

For most working parents, no other issue is so fraught with worry as the choice of child care. In a field long plagued by overheated headlines and complicated political overtones, three new studies offer some solid information on the pros and cons of different arrangements.

Two bolster research that found that long hours in group child care are linked to better reading and math skills but worse social skills and more behavioral problems. The third suggests that children in child care centers are safer than those who receive care in private homes, whether in a neighbor's home or by a nanny in the child's own home.

Four years ago, the nation's most ambitious and longest-running child care study sparked a firestorm with its findings that 41-,2-year-olds who had spent more than 30 hours a week in child care were more demanding, more aggressive and more noncompliant than others, regardless of the type or quality of care, the family's socioeconomic status or the sensitivity of the mother's parenting.

Now a new report from that research - the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Study of Early Child Care - has tracked the same children through early elementary school and found that by third grade, those who had spent long hours in child care continued to score higher in math and reading skills and that their higher likelihood of aggressive behavior had dissipated. But it also found that they still had poorer work habits and social skills.

Researchers cautioned that the findings should not be a cause of alarm, since the effects of child care were found to be small. "It isn't that these kids are more likely to have clinical levels of behavior problems," said Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, a professor of child development at Columbia University. "You're getting a slight uptick, but it's still in the normal range."

This article, written by Tamar Lewin, appeared in the November 1st, 2005 publication of The New York Times.previous page