The first large Australian longitudinal study on the effects of child care on children’s adjustment and achievement indicates that long hours in care, and multiple care arrangements in the early years (for example, the baby or young child would attend a number of different care situations each week such as be with the nanny in the morning, dropped off at long day care during the day and perhaps attend a family day care carer’s home some of the time), were predictors of lower literacy scores.
Multiple care arrangements were also predictive of socio-emotional difficulties, which are indicators of early mental health problems. These difficulties also extended to lower levels of prosocial behaviour, and children who had experienced many changes in care arrangements tended to dislike school more than other children. In layman’s terms, such children are less likely to be cooperative with adults and less likely to be kind to their peers. Long hours in early formal care (e.g. not with family members) were also predictors of poorer adjustment to school. Equally, longer hours of early informal care predicted positive prosocial behaviour and relationship with teachers at school, as did a good relationship with carers and teachers in early care arrangements. What does all this mean for parents of potentially gifted young children? It means that no matter how well you have planned your care arrangements, you really have no control unless you decide to be the primary carer of your child during the early childhood years: nannies may leave, lovely child care workers may be moved to another room or quit, the family day care lady may decide to go back to her former profession. The early childhood years are brief, but incredibly important in terms of its effect on a life span. As we have seen, the wrong sort of care can turn children off school, affect their literacy, their mental health and their popularity with peers and teachers alike. If you would like to read the outcome of this study, it is available at the following link: