Day Care Linked to Aggression in Children

ByABC News
April 19, 2001, 12:14 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, April 19 -- The longer young children spend in day careaway from their mothers the more likely they are to be overlyaggressive by the time they reached kindergarten, according to thelargest study of child care and development ever conducted.

The basic results of the 10-year, 10-city federally financedstudy were outlined Wednesday at a briefing.

Principal researcher Jay Belsky of Birkbeck College in Londonwas presenting the findings in more detail today in Minneapolisat a meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development.

"There is a constant dose-response relationship between time incare and problem behavior, especially those involving aggressionand behavior," Belsky told reporters Wednesday.

Belsky, a research psychologist who worked at Penn StateUniversity until two years ago, added that children who spend morethan 30 hours a week in child care "scored higher on items like`gets in lots of fights,' `cruelty,' `explosive behavior,' as wellas `talking too much,' `argues a lot,' and `demands a lot ofattention.'

'Extend Parental Leave and Part-Time Work'

"If more time in all sorts of [child care] arrangements ispredicting disconcerting outcomes, then if you want to reduce theprobability of those outcomes, you reduce the time in care," saidBelsky. "Extend parental leave and part-time work."

However, Sarah Friedman of the National Institute of ChildHealth and Human Development, which financed the study, said thefederal agency "is not willing to get into policyrecommendations."

One of the lead scientists on the study with Belsky, she said,"The easy solution is to cut the number of hours but that may haveimplications for the family that may not be beneficial for thedevelopment of the children in terms of economics."

The study followed more than 1,364 children in a variety ofsettings, from care with relatives and nannies to preschool andlarge day care centers. Its conclusions are based on ratings of thechildren by their mothers, those caring for them and kindergartenteachers.