New Study Shares How Long Hours At A Daycare Affects Children’s Behavior

According to a new study, spending long hours in childcare does not significantly affect children. This article will look at the details and explore the benefits of child care for both children and parents.

More On The Research

A recent study by the Institute of Early Childhood Policy at Boston College shows no adverse effect on children who spend long hours at childcare facilities. Instead, the results point to destructive behavior such as biting, hitting, and bullying. In addition, the study says that longer times spent at childcare facilities do not impact inappropriate actions and could be connected to positive activities children engage in later in life.

The data was collected over seven different studies conducted between 1993 and 2012. The research subjects were over 10,000 toddlers and preschoolers. As researchers compared the data, they learned that as children aged, they spent more time in daycare centers. However, this increase in time spent with early childhood teachers did not have any connection to the rise in unwanted, destructive behaviors exhibited outside of the childcare facility. The behaviors examined included picking fights, restlessness, and hair-pulling.

What They Had To Say

Catalina Rey-Guerra, the study’s author, says, “The fact that we find no relation between spending time in center-based care and children’s externalizing behaviors is reassuring for parents, given the current trends in childcare use and parental participation in the labor force.” She went on to say that the findings speak to two main themes. The first one is the direct positive effects on children attending childcare. The second is the indirect positive effects of parents being able to work and not be concerned about the harmful effects their children may experience through long hours spent in childcare.

Other Studies Had Different Results

According to Rey-Guerra, the research indicates long hours in childcare had more negative effects on children; however, the focus was different. In addition, she says, “the vast majority of studies done are purely correlational, leaving open many alternative explanations as to why children who spend large amounts of time in center care could be at risk other than center care per se.”

Other Factors Come Into Play

Carol Weitzman, MD, a pediatrician in the Division of Developmental Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, says that other factors contribute to a child acting out. They may include such things as how friendly the daycare staff is or isn’t, how clean the childcare facility happens to be, and whether or not there is enough staff on-site. She also points out that it is sexist to suggest that dropping children off daily at childcare will automatically lead to behavioral problems. Weitzman claims that previous studies could have been wrong simply because of “societal expectations of mothers.”

The Incorrect Focus On Mothers Being At Fault

Being a career woman is challenging enough without the guilt that sometimes results from dropping children off to spend most of the day under the care of someone other than parents or family members. But, Weitzman says, “One must wonder if there’s an underlying bias that children not in maternal care will fare worse and there will be threats to attachment.”

She adds that when the workforce in the US is 50 percent women, questions should focus more on how to ensure quality and affordability for childcare and how to establish and enforce child-friendly parental leave policies.

The Benefits of Childcare for Both Children and Parents

Putting children in childcare benefits the child and the parent in several ways. First, although they may not be evident initially, steady attendance in quality childcare programs provides valuable skills that children will require as they grow into young adults. Here is a quick look at what a few of them are.


Childcare will assist children in becoming confident adults. Depending on the program in place, time spent in a childcare center will provide numerous opportunities for children to work on various skills leading to autonomy. For parents, not caring for a young child offers the independence required to devote time to a career or other family duties or roles.


With many daily social interactions experienced during childcare, children receive countless opportunities to form connections with friendships. The exchanges will also give children the settings required to hone their communication skills, either verbal or non-verbal. Finally, children will practice these skills at home involving their parents.


Young children require the structure and stability of a consistent schedule to learn and grow. Therefore, childcare centers follow a daily routine that makes learning fun and instills the importance of doing certain tasks at specific times. Activities help them anticipate what happens during the day and give them some control in their lives at home and in the childcare setting.


The development of social skills is essential, and childcare programs assist with this. The relationships children build in a supervised environment are encouraged, which can have a life-long impact on the social development of childcare participants. It also assists with interaction at home with parents and family through various forms of communication.

Final Thoughts

Parents have wrestled for a long time with whether or not they are helping or harming their children by dropping them off at childcare. Working parents must earn money to pay for all their daily expenses. They should not feel guilty about leaving their children in the care of others. Many quality childcare programs will help children prepare for the future.

These programs build character and specific skills, and childcare is considered early childhood education, where the effort prepares young children for the formal school system. As a result, educational institutions have expectations today that children in childcare have specific skills that translate well into their formal education. The skills these children learn and hone will be essential for success throughout their school life.

Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.