Daycare Kids Actually Behave Better Than Those Who Stay Home, Says New Report

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kids at daycare
Nadezhda1906/iStock.com

In 2018, working parents are the norm, and that means a lot of kids spend at least some time in daycare. Even though daycare is a positive experience for most kids, it's not uncommon for parents to feel guilty about dropping their little ones off there each day. Parents wonder if they're spending enough time with their kids and if kids are actually benefiting from their time at daycare. Well, fear not! Because a new study shows that kids who attend daycare reap social and cognitive benefits, and they're actually better behaved than kids who stay home.

  • Researchers from France's Sorbonne University surveyed 1,428 children from infancy until they turned 8 years old.

    The researchers divided the kids into three different groups: those who get center-based care (daycare), those who have "child minders" (professional caregivers who look after two to six children), and those who stay at home. Then, they had parents fill out questionnaires assessing their child's behavior and development at different ages, and then compared the kids' scores.

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  • What they found is that kids in high-quality, center-based childcare have better mental health and social skills and exhibit fewer emotional problems.

    According to the study, kids who attend a center-based daycare for at least one year are "less likely to have high levels of emotional symptoms, peer relationship problems, hyperactivity/inattention and conduct problems." The study also noted that high-quality early childcare can have an impact on a child’s academic abilities, including “cognitive, language and pre-academic skills.”

    “Access to high-quality childcare in the first years of life may improve children’s emotional and cognitive development, prevent later emotional difficulties and promote prosocial behaviors,” Dr. Maria Melchior, co-author of the study, told Popsugar.

  • One additional finding to note is that kids from a "favorable socioeconomic background reaped more benefits" than the others.

    It is likely that some of the benefits kids get could be the result of already starting from a privileged position in life. It's also important to note that in the US, the cost of childcare is prohibitive to many families. Some places, like New York, offer universal pre-K. But for others around the country, daycare still costs an average of $10,000 per year, and according to Care.com, 71 percent of parents say they spend at least 10 percent of their income on childcare.

    These findings are powerful for families who wonder if their kid is really getting much out of the hours they spend at daycare, but they also highlight a real need -- at least in the US -- to put more effort into making daycare and preschool a viable option for more families. Now that we're gaining a better understanding of the true benefits of daycare, we should also focus on making sure those benefits extend to as many children as possible.