by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst,
National Women's Law Center
The latest results from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, which has been following 1,364 children since their birth in 1991, show the long-term positive impact of high-quality child care. The study found that at age 15 those who had been in high-quality quality care before age 4 ½ were performing better on academic and cognitive assessments and were less likely to display problem behavior.
The differences in teens' academic performance and behavior associated with the quality of care they had in their preschool years were relatively small. And the influence of parents and other family members and other factors outweighed the impact of child care. Yet the persistence of those differences related to child care is striking, and children and youth need every extra boost they can get.
The study also found that teens who had spent more time in child care were slightly more likely to display impulsive and risk-taking behavior. This only reinforces the importance of high-quality child care, particularly for children who are in care for long hours.