Day Care Table

SOURCE: Table adapted from Ellen Peisner-Feinberg, Margaret R. Burchinal, Richard M. Clifford, Noreen Yazejian, Mary L. Culkin, J. Zelazo, Carolee Howes, Patricia Byler, Sharon Lynn Kagan, and Jean Rustici. The Children of the Cost, Quality, and Outcomes Study Go to School Technical Report. Chapel Hill: Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, 2000.

Characteristics of Low, Mediocre, and High Quality Day Care



Atmosphere is either chaotic or overly strict

Adults are inattentive, unresponsive, or overly harsh

Materials and activities are scarce, completely lacking, or developmentally inappropriate

Insufficient attention Is paid to the individual needs of the children

Children spend most of their time in large groups rather than in small groups or individual activities Adults provide little or no educational guidance

There may be enough materials for all the children or some may be damaged

Little attention Is paid to individual children

Basic nutritional, health, and safety needs are not met Basic nutritional needs are met and the children's and play spaces indoors and out may be dangerous safety needs are generally attended to

Atmosphere is friendly and respectful

Adults have close relationships with the children and provide educational guidance to support learning

Rooms are well organized with a variety and good amount of age appropriate materials and activities that are changed frequently to keep up with the children's interests and abilities

Children's Individual needs are attended to

Safety, nutritional needs, and personal care are attended to and met while encouraging the development of self-help skills factors were controlled for, few differences between the groups existed. Comparisons showed that children in high quality care sometimes scored higher than children in exclusive maternal care, and children in low quality care sometimes scored lower. More frequently than not, however, children in exclusive maternal care and children in day care scored similarly on cognitive measures.

Effects on Social Development

The effects of day care on social development are also associated with care quality. The CQO study found that children in higher quality day care had more positive attitudes about themselves, their relationships with peers were more positive, and their social skills were more advanced than were those in lower quality care. Further, the quality of the day care they had attended continued to be related to their social development in the early school years. Children who had close relationships with their day-care providers were rated as more sociable through kindergarten and as having fewer problem behaviors through second grade than children whose relationships with their day-care providers were not close. Also, children who had more positive classroom climates in day care were found to have better relationships with their peers in second grade. The NICHD study similarly found that care quality was associated with children's social development. However, they also noted that family characteristics, especially mother's sensitivity, were more strongly associated with children's behavior than their day-care experience (e.g., age of entry into care and care type).

One specific concern that the NICHD study addressed was whether using nonmaternal care affects the emotional attachment formed between infants and their mothers. The study found that the use of day care was not in and of itself associated with the quality of the attachment relationship. However, if mothers were low in sensitivity and the infants were either in poor quality care, in day care for more than ten hours per week, or experienced multiple settings before age fifteen months, then the infants were more likely to be insecurely attached to their mothers. Thus, the results suggest that the quality of mother-infant attachment is related to a combination of day care and home characteristics.

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