FRIDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) -- High-quality child care can help reduce the risk of emotional and behavioral problems in children from difficult home environments, say researchers.

Using data from a large U.S. study that followed children from birth through the middle-school years, the researchers focused on children at ages 2, 3 and 4.5 years.

The families with "difficult home environments" had fewer resources, fewer learning opportunities and less sensitivity and acceptance of children, according to trained observers who visited the homes.

They found that children in difficult home environments and lower-quality child care had more social-emotional problems -- such as being anxious, fearful, disruptive or aggressive, or being less friendly, helpful and open to other children -- than those who attended lower-quality child care but lived in more advantaged and supportive homes.

Lower-quality child care was characterized by fewer learning opportunities, caregivers who used neutral or negative facial expressions and tone of voice, and insensitive responses.

The study, published in the January/February issue of the journal Child Development, also found that attending high-quality child care could help children from difficult home environments overcome the effects of that less-than-ideal family setting.

Experiencing high-quality child care may help children learn positive ways to express themselves and interact with the world and provide them with a safe emotional space to grow and learn, the researchers said in a news release from the Society for Research in Child Development.

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers tips for choosing child care.