Monday’s briefs: Quick musings on child related research.

One drawback of our culture of individualism is that it perpetuates the myth that we all have equal opportunities for success and that the only thing that is needed to achieve our goals is personal effort. The research on environmental contributions to academic and professional success strongly argues against this myth. Actually, our privileges and disadvantages start at birth. For example, factors associated with parental socio-economic status during early childhood, such as parental education, has a major impact on children’s academic performance. The critical question is why is this the case and what can we do about it.

One well supported theory purports that that these kids are exposed to limited learning experiences before they start school, which leads to poor school readiness. This means that these kids are already behind their peers when they enter kindergarten and thus have  difficulty catching up throughout their education. If this is the case, providing rich learning opportunities to these kids before they start kindergarten, such as those provided at daycare centers, could have a major impact on the kids’ school readiness and academic achievement.

In an article just published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry a team from the University of Montreal studied the daycare experiences and academic performance of 1,863 children born in 1997 and 1998. They were interested in examining whether the expected differences in school readiness and achievement between kids with advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds persisted if the kids attended quality daycare.

The results:

- As expected, kids of parents with limited education scored lower in tests of academic readiness before starting first grade and performed worse in academic achievement tests in 1st grade than kids who’s parents had more education.

- However, attending daycare before kindergarten greatly improved the performance of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. In contrast, for  kids whose parents had high levels of education, attending daycare didn’t change their academic performance.

- In addition, attending daycare, whether formal or informal, eliminated the gap between the kids in some key measures. For example:

The lollipop test is a well known measure of academic readiness. As you can see, there was no difference in scores between kids of mothers with high or low levels of education as long as the kids attended daycare. In contrast, not attending daycare had a great negative impact on the academic readiness of the kids whose mothers had low levels of education.  These effects were observed after controlling for a long list of possible explanatory variables, such as gender, birth weight, maternal age, income, breastfeeding, etc.

In conclusion, this study suggests that attending daycare has a significant positive impact on academic readiness and achievement for kids of parents with limited education.

I know, I have to work on the “brief” portion of Monday’s briefs :-) .

This post is sponsored by Kendall College. Get your early childhood education degree.


Geoffroy, M., Côté, S., Giguère, C., Dionne, G., Zelazo, P., Tremblay, R., Boivin, M., & Séguin, J. (2010). Closing the gap in academic readiness and achievement: the role of early childcare Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02316.xResearchBlogging.org

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9 Responses to Is daycare good for my child? Daycare effects on school performance.

  1. That’s quite a striking effect. It really shows why we need low-income accessible child care in the US.

    Also, this is brief enough for me. I wouldn’t have liked it to be any shorter.

  2. I was surprised by the variation in the gap between the two groups of children. As an advocate for Early Childhood Education, I knew about the importance of learning experiences prior to kindergarten. I did not know, however, of the very little impact such experiences have on children whose parents have higher levels of education. I wonder, though, if the same is valid for emotional readiness – such as being able to share, wait for turns, etc. I would say Early Childhood Education has different effects on children from varied backgrounds, and children who are intellectually ready could profit from the emotional support and development fostered in such environments – provided they are of professional quality.

  3. Your article is targeted towards daycare centers, but I’d like to stand up for the in-home daycares who work hard to make sure the children they care for are ready for school.

    I take great pride in the work I do at my in-home daycare to work with every child, regardless of income, race or creed, to make sure they are a little bit ahead of the rest of the kids in their kindergarten class.

    My own children did not attend a preschool, which is quite common in our area. When they were screened for kindergarten, the person in charge basically scolded us for not enrolling our kids in kindergarten. But after she saw how well they tested, she apologized for her comments.

    I do not have a college degree and I did not get good grades in school. That doesn’t matter. To get a child ready for to enter school just takes time!

    Thanks for the article.

    • @Marcia, the study was not targeted to daycare centers only. The authors divided daycare intro 3 categories

      (1) ‘formal childcare’ is by nonrelative(
      s) that takes place in either residential or nonresidential
      ‘school-like’ settings; (2) ‘informal childcare’
      is by relatives such as by a grandparent/brother/sister,
      taking place in a residential home; or less frequently by
      a non-relative in children’s own home (e.g., nanny); and
      (3) ‘parental care’, i.e., children not in childcare, was
      used here as the reference category.

      The results provided evidence for the benefit of both of the childcare settings (e.g., including informal centers).

      @Doc Sid, see above for definition. There was no control for quality of childcare (e.g., ratio of teacher to students, etc).

  4. Doc Sid says:

    Does the study look at the quality of daycare? How was daycare defined?

  5. Gustav Leandersson says:

    Interesting!

    This research is concurrent with the work of prof. Kathy Sylva in Oxford. This spring, I attended a conference where she presented data from the “EPPE” project. The most striking effect, in my opinion, was that an effective pre-school works as an “preemptive protection” for a less qualitative primary schooling:

    “High quality pre-school appears to provide some ‘protection’ against attending an ineffective primary school; pupils who attended high quality pre-schools fared better in low effective primary schools than pupils who had not attended pre-school or those who had attended lower quality pre-schools. The reverse was also true, pupils who were fortunate enough to attend a primary school of high academic effectiveness showed better outcomes at age 11 (compared to children in low effective schools) even if they had not attended a pre-school or if their pre-school was of low quality.” (citation from conference abstract)

    /Gustav L, School Psych. in Gothenburg, Sweden

  6. DSC says:

    Only one of our kids went to daycare; he came home crying every day, so we took him out. Costly, and it took two years, but he got over that experience. Daycare, like most things, isn’t good for everyone, regardless of the quality of the business.

    On the other hand, one of our boys was in a school care program at age 3 and is still ahead of his peers. Two years ahead, according to his teacher.

  7. Theresa says:

    I guess that nothing addresses the incidence of a severe illness during the pre-school time;even that my son had the advantages of the experience, illness took much of that away. Was an autistic regression, now in recovery and the schools show very little empathy. Too bad for those children like my own where the parents get blamed in every circumstance because a loving teacher+school system can also work wonders;it is more than nearly social background and education but that what even one loving teacher can do will work a lifetime!

  8. Mapaseka Mudau says:

    Thanx for the article i’ve always wanted something like this to help me decide wether to take my 8month old to daycare or not & what type it’s suitable for him & us like financially,

    We are not earning enough but we’ll definately make sure o.ur baby gets the best education

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