FRIDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Parents who send their
children to day care may be able to breathe a sigh of relief. New
research finds that children in child care do not have an increased
risk of behavioral problems.
The catch? The new study was conducted in Norway, which has a
vastly different child care system than the United States -- where
studies have been conducted that did find increased behavioral
Differences between several studies finding behavioral troubles
such as aggression -- including a 2007 U.S. National Institutes of
Health study -- and this one from Norway noting no such link may be
attributable to vastly different systems of child care in the two
countries, authors of the new study suggested.
The researchers assessed behavioral problems in more than 75,000
children attending day care, including nearly 18,000 siblings, at
ages 18 months and 3 years.
Without adjusting for factors such as family characteristics,
the authors initially found a small association between children
who spent very long hours in day care (more than 40 hours a week)
and an increased risk of behavioral problems.
But the increased risk probably was not "clinically meaningful,"
meaning it wouldn't necessarily be apparent to the average
observer, said Eric Dearing, co-author of the study, which appeared
online recently in the journal
But that finding changed when additional analyses were done,
particularly when the authors zeroed in on children who were
"Once we moved beyond simple associations and began to compare siblings from the same families and individual children [in the same family] whose quantity of day care changed over time, we saw no evidence of an association," said Dearing, who is a psychologist and associate professor at Boston College's Lynch School of Education.
Because this study used more rigorous methods than commonly seen
in U.S. studies (such as looking at siblings), at this point it's
not possible to know why the Norwegian study had different
Certainly it could be due to the dramatic difference between the
Norwegian child care system and that of the United States, Dearing
In Norway, new parents get one year of paid parental leave. As a
result, children don't enter day care until after they're 1 year
old. In the United States, the average age of entering child care
is 3 months, Dearing said.
Norway also offers near universal access to subsidized child
care and has stringent quality standards for all child care
Another expert noted the variations between Norway and the
"There are substantial differences in the approach to early child care between the two countries, which limits to some extent the [ability to extrapolate] their findings to our society," said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, in New Hyde Park.
The study also had other limitations that may have affected the
results, said Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at Maimonides
Medical Center, in New York City.
For instance, the follow-up period -- until the children were 36
months of age -- was relatively short and behavioral problems could
first appear later than that, Hilfer said.
Also, Hilfer pointed out, the authors relied only on mothers'
reports of whether their child was showing other behavioral
disturbances, which is not always a reliable measure.
Still, study author Dearing said, it's possible that "providing
access to high-quality care ... and generous parental-leave
policies may be critical to realizing the benefits of care without
realizing the harm."
U.S. National Library of Medicinehas more on
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