March 30, 2007

Fearless Slate Speaks Truth To Day Care Study

Over at Slate, Emily Bazelon unpacks the coverage of that long-term NIH day care study to figure out why all the media types are so down on day care, especially since the real results of the study show that childcare is a distant third place in child behavior influencers [the first two: parenting and genes, duh].

Some of her findings and her interview with one of the study's authors are definitely worth noting. Important facts like,

  • the kids who showed increased misbehavior in 6th grade were almost all in the small percentage who had daycare for up to 4 of 4.5 years of the initial study.
  • coincidentally? those care those kids got rated significantly lower in quality than the rest.

    Alternate conclusions [that didn't get any play in the study or in coverage of it]: toddler daycare isn't the problem. Infant daycare is hard to do well, needs improvement, and makes a difference.

    Slate's conclusion, meanwhile, derives from Bazelon's own sample of one: a woman at the checkout line scowled when she learned the kid went to daycare. Ergo, society hates daycare.

    I would say that yeah, daycare gets a bum rap, and it's hard to shake the notion that people choose day care because they can't afford a nanny, and since it's cheaper, it's a lower quality thing.

    But there's something else Bazelon's critique ignores: the NICHD/SRCD's own culpability in stacking the media deck against day care. If the study's own press release says, "Children in Center-Based Child Care Have Slightly More Behavior Problems, But for Children in Other Types of Early Child Care, Problems Are Short-Lived," what do you think the headline on the story is going to be?

    The Kids Are Alright: What the latest day care study really found [slate via dt reader john]

  • 4 Comments

    ~ coincidentally? those care those kids got rated significantly lower in quality than the rest.

    Ahem... I was saying. Lol.
    Again, I think it's quality of care and I think that a child's quality of care can be poor or it can be great no matter where it comes from and thats why it's important for a parent to do the research.
    And it's true daycare gets a bum rap. But you know, the opinions of those of us who have never and don't plan on ever sending their kids to daycare should play no factor (that's a researcher/sample bias if I've ever seen one)

    Again though, where's the study on those children who come from awesome daycares/homecare/nannydom and act like raving brats? I'd still like to know about them...

    [group hug! to the reschrs credit, it was the reporter's own exper/analysis about people's attitudes toward daycare, not theirs. -ed.]

    Day care does get a bum rap, and please excuse me if I get defensive, but while it's not a perfect solution we found it was the best option for our kid. Our son is very social and active and we wanted to make sure he had lots of opportunities to play with other kids in a day to day environment, not just play dates and gymboree. If money were no object, we'd keep him there part of the day instead of the 8 to 9 hours that he's there, but unfortunately we can't afford both daycare and a nanny. But I absoultely feel that a full day of daycare is better, FOR HIM, than long days with just a nanny. (or long days with me just me or my husband, for that matter)

    While I understand that, outside of our weird UES bubble, daycare can be subpar, the level of care that we have access to doesn't really play into studies like this. And I will say that, yes, daycare is cheaper than a nanny, but not if you have 2 kids or more and there are lots of parents who send 2 kids to daycare at the same time. So they must be doing something right.

    [get worked up, but not defensive, at least around here. your exper. fits right with Bazelon's, whose kids were in a great-sounding daycare situation. -ed.]

    It's frustrating how the media will cling to the one bad piece of information in a press release, and expand on it while ignoring any of the good. Thanks for sharing the whole truth. The problem isn't a blanket effect that child care is bad for kids. The problem is there are low-quality places, and some kids spend way too many hours there. I am a Nationally Accredited Family Child Care Provider and have been in this business for over 17 years. I feel for parents looking at their child care choices because for the most part this is a "you get what you pay for" kind of industry and that means the kids who need the quality care the most, often don't get it. As author of "From Babysitter To Business Owner" I work to raise the level of quality in care offered to children, but one of the biggest obstacles is that the state's are slowing cutting off the grant money providers use to get training and raise quality. This means raising rates to cover these costs, and leads to many families having to settle for low-quality care. Parents who understand this trickle-down effect can do something about it by writing to their congress members and getting early childhood back in the budgets!

    Have you thought of starting co operatives say a group of women and men with similar dynamics could set up a daycare reducing costs. You could provide quality care by pooling your resources along with a few hours of cleanup to keep the daycare do able. You could have volunteer grannies and have real input in how and where your children spend their time learning and interacting with their peers. There may even been facilities and grants out there to start up such an organization as pre school costs are right up there.

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