Study: Kids in child care not more likely to exhibit problematic behaviors

Brett Peveto

(Maryland News Connection) New research shows kids in child care aren't more likely to exhibit behavior problems than other children. 

The study, published in the journal Child Development, looked at data from seven studies including more than 10,000 toddlers and preschoolers in five nations. 

Researchers looked at the number of hours per week children were in care settings and reported they found no greater likelihood of problem behaviors - such as hitting, kicking, biting, fighting or bullying - with a greater quantity of time spent in care. 

Doug Lent, communications director for the nonprofit Maryland Family Network, said quality is the most important consideration for parents when looking for child care.

"In a quality child-care setting, a child-care provider knows how to address some of the aggressive behaviors," said Lent. "They've attended in Maryland at least 90 hours of early childhood education training, and they're familiar with what's healthy, what's not, and where to go for help if a child is acting out."

The study looked at existing research compiled between 1993 and 2012 in Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Canada and the United States.

Accessing high-quality child care in the other countries in the study is comparatively easy versus the U.S. 

The EU average expenditure is around $6,000 per child. The U.S. spends about half that, and Lent said we should be doing more.

"In an ideal world, every parent who needs it in the United States would have access to high-quality child care," said Lent. "And we can do that by expanding the existing child-care scholarship funds, which we have done successfully here in Maryland, and expanding pre-K to more families would go a long way to making that care accessible to more families."

The Maryland child-care scholarship income limits were increased in 2022, such that now a family of 4 earning $90,000 a year can still qualify for help. 

Maryland Family Networks can help with the Child Care Scholarship application at no cost to parents. 

Lent said another service they provide is called "locate child care," which in addition to offering a list of quality care providers assists parents in knowing what to look for.

"We will spend as much time with parents as they need, to - first of all - help them understand what to look for in a quality child-care setting," said Lent. "What questions to ask that provider, and how to identify what's best for your child."