10 Things No One Ever Told Us About Putting Kids in Day Care

Judy Dutton | Jun 8, 2015 Being a Mom

day care kids
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Every day, millions of parents drop their kids off at day care (or pry them off their leg and make a mad dash for the car, if need be). Whether it's a babysitter watching kids in their home or a day care center, these caregivers make it possible for mothers and fathers to make ends meet without worrying about what's happening to their kids. One would love to believe that when parents head out the door, their anxiety about their children would magically vanish. Only ... plenty of parents do worry.

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With the mommy wars pitting working moms against SAHMs, the debate rages on and on about whose decision is better for kids. So what effects do day cares really have on kids' health, behavior, and future? Some parents argue it has everything to do with how their kids turn out and some would argue that it doesn't mean anything. Scientists have spent a lot of time studying the 1 in 3 American children under 5 who attend a day care, preschool, or other non-relative child care arrangement ... and the results of their studies may be surprising. Want to know which side of the debate is right? Well, take a look at the list we've compiled of the best expert opinions on the effects of child care on early development.   

  • Day Care Kids Have Lower Odds of Cancer

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    Strange, but true: Kids in day care don't get cancer as often as those who stay home -- specifically cancers that crop up during childhood, like leukemia. The reason? After studying 280 cases of childhood cancer and the patients' backgrounds, researchers from France's Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale theorize that kids whose immune systems remain sheltered from infections end up overreacting to germs later on, paving the way to immune system malfunctions, like leukemia.

  • Day Care Makes Kids Smart

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    Well, high-quality day care anyway. A 2006 study of more than 3,000 kids by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that kids in high-quality child care settings develop better cognitive and language skills than kids with low-quality care. Plus, these positive effects aren't just a blip: They remain at least through the age of 15.

  • Day Care Kids Get More College Degrees

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    If your kids are happily ensconced in day care, you can also wager they'll end up graduating from college, too. In one 2012 study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which tracked 100 kids from the time they were babies to adults, kids who grew up in high-quality day care were four times more likely to get a college degree than those who didn't.

  • Day Care Helps Kids Hold Down Jobs Later On

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    Day care can even have positive effects well after kids graduate college. For instance, the same UNC study found that kids who hail from high-quality day care centers are more likely to hold down a job than kids from less desirable day care settings. Odds are also slimmer they'll end up leaning on government programs like welfare.

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  • Day Care Kids Put Off Having Kids Themselves

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    Holding out for grandkids? You could be holding out a lot longer if your kids spend a day with a sitter. The UNC study found that kids from high-quality day care held off on having kids for two years longer than those who weren't raised in that type of environment.

  • Day Care Kids Turn Into Risk-Taking Teens

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    One 2001 study by the Early Child Care Research Network found that kids who clocked long hours in day care as preschoolers end up more impulsive and prone to risk-taking by the age of 15 than teenagers who spent their toddler years at home. For every additional 10 hours spent per week in day care, teens rated themselves 15 percent more reckless. Yikes!

  • Day Care Kids Don't Get Depressed As Much

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    If you're prone to depression and are worried it could rub off on your kids, here's some cheery news: Put your kids in day care, and they will be less likely to inherit your depressive tendencies. According to a 2013 study conducted at the University of Quebec of 1,759 children with mothers who suffered from depression, day care attendance reduced how often moms passed their glum mood along. Talk about a silver lining.

  • Day Care Kids Are Fatter

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    The childhood obesity epidemic is expanding by the day, and day cares may be partly to blame: A 2012 study at the University of Montreal of 1,649 families found that kids in day care are 50 percent more likely to be overweight than if they stay home with their parents.

  • Day Care Kids Get Less Exercise

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    Think kids spend all their time at day care running around? On the contrary, a study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies in Baltimore in 2009 found that kids in day care aren't exercising enough, spending only 2-3 percent of their time doing vigorous physical activities.

  • Day Care Kids Are Healthier Once They Start School

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    Think babies at day care catch more colds from other kids? Well, a study of 10,000 children from researchers at Charles Stuart University did find that kids under 3 1/2 do get more infections in group day care settings. But by the time they "graduate" to school, they've earned themselves hardy immune systems! These day care kids ended up getting sick less often once they start school.

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