The Effects of Child Care on Infants

Working parents often place their infants in child care centers or have a caretaker watch them. Hara Estroff Marano, a Psychology Today writer, reports that researchers have found an array of effects on babies who are in non-parental care for at least 10 hours per week. These effects touch many areas, including language development, memory skills, social relationship and overall behavior.

Several recently released long-term studies have found that infants placed in child care are more likely to misbehave at school or get into fights by the time that they reach sixth grade. Teachers also reported that they are more argumentative, according to Marano. Dr. Jay Belsky, who heads the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues at London’s Birkbeck University speculates this may result from the inability of babies to form secure attachments, leading to the later problems.

Babies who are placed in high-quality day-care situations often develop a better vocabulary which carries on to the later school years, Marano reports. This effect is likely because of early exposure to adult conversation. The early childhood Ounce of Prevention Fund also notes that children who hear more words on a consistent basis during their first three years have a more expansive vocabulary as they age and develop. Infants who are in child care situations that feature the constant use of quality words may eventually develop a richer vocabulary than those who go without.

Babies tended to develop stronger social skills in day care, but Marano states these effects did not last as the youngsters grew older. However, some researchers believe they may reappear later as children continue to develop. The National Network for Child Care notes that early childhood professionals have a pivotal role in the child’s social development. Even at the infant age, a teacher’s actions, instructions and own behaviors can make the difference between a young child learning positive social skills and missing out on this crucial area of growth.

High-quality child care supports a baby’s cognitive development, preparing him for higher academic achievement upon entering school. This appears to result from being provided with intellectual stimulation during the early developmental period, leading to better performance in reading, math and memory-related tasks, Marano explains.

Many babies placed in child care, particularly those with teenage mothers or infants from low-income backgrounds, see a positive effect when it comes to the development of intelligence. Young children’s IQ scores were an average of 10 points higher than children from similar backgrounds who did not attend day care by the time they were 4 years old, according to a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development study.

With each new milestone your toddler reaches, you may become more certain that she’s the brightest toddler you’ve ever seen. Parental biases aside, you could be onto something. Although there is no single universally embraced definition of “intelligence,” formal measurements, such as IQ testing, rank some children above others in their cognitive ability. However, if a child has a mediocre ability to understand concepts and solve problems, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he isn’t gifted in other ways. Recognizing signs of high IQ, in addition to recognizing signs of giftedness, can help you foster your toddler’s individual talents.

Children under age 3 aren’t generally given ability and IQ tests and the test results for children between ages 3 and 5 may fluctuate from test to test, according to Baby Center.com. Additionally, IQ scores aren’t as black-and-white as they used to be. In the past, children with IQ scores of over 130 were deemed gifted, whereas now IQ is just one of multiple factors that contribute to positive identification of giftedness, says Baby Center.com. For example, a tester may also ask teachers and parents to describe their own impressions of the child.

Your toddler may be gifted if she: has a specific talent such as a keen artistic ability; speaks more clearly or has a larger vocabulary than children her age; reaches other developmental milestones ahead of her peers; is consistently curious and asks many questions; or has a vivid imagination and is able to memorize random facts with ease, says Baby Center.com. She may also be unusually active and passionate about her interests, yet not hyperactive with a short attention span, says Baby Center.com.

Although most children don’t need to be tested for giftedness before they enter elementary school, you may consider taking your child to see a mental health professional if she seems to be bored in preschool or if she struggles emotionally or socially, says Baby Center.com. Talk to your child’s teacher or pediatrician for a referral to a child psychologist who can conduct the appropriate assessments.

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