Sunday 4 December 2016

Parents' care 'not always best for child development'

Published 02/11/2016 | 02:30

The study looked at outcomes at age five based on skills such as the ability to share and be kind to others (Stock picture)
The study looked at outcomes at age five based on skills such as the ability to share and be kind to others (Stock picture)

Children cared for by a childminder at age three were rated as having fewer emotional problems at age five than children in full-time parental care.

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Parents and teachers both shared this view of the child's socio-emotional development, according to an Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) study of childcare.

Children cared for by relatives at age three were also seen to have fewer socio-emotional difficulties and better social skills at age five than those looked after by their parents full-time.

But there were differences in perception of a child's development in other areas according to the study 'Socio-emotional outcomes at age five: Does childcare make a difference?'

For example, parents and teachers had different views on how spending long hours in childcare affected children.

The study looked at outcomes at age five based on skills such as the ability to share and be kind to others.

It also considered difficulties where they get into fights, are anxious or inattentive. At age three, prior to the free preschool year, around half the children in the study were in non-parental childcare.

Different types of childcare include relative (usually a grandparent), non-relative (usually a childminder) or centre-based care (typically a créche). The research tracked the differences in young children who fell into these different categories.

The results showed:

Teachers believe children who spend a total of 30 or more hours a week in any type of non-parental care had more emotional problems - but this view was not shared by parents.

Parents rated children who attended centre-based care as having fewer emotional and peer problems but marginally higher conduct difficulties.

Parents and teachers said children cared for by a non-relative such as a childminder at age three had fewer socio-emotional problems .

Teachers said children from disadvantaged backgrounds or lone-parent households benefited from centre-based care.

The report pointed out that regardless of what childcare arrangement is involved, the main influences on children are their health, gender, socio-economic background, parenting style and parental stress.

The greatest difficulties were found among boys, children in households with financial strain and those in less safe neighbourhoods.

Frances McGinnity, associate research professor at ESRI, said overall the difference in influences from various types of childcare were very small.

"The responses on the assessment of a child from parents and teachers can differ," she said.

"A parent knows their child but a teacher knows a lot of children and evaluates them in the school setting."

She said the study had not been able to measure the quality of childcare, an important component.

The key aim for parents was to try to provide children with a warm and consistent environment at home, she added.

ESRI researcher Helen Russell said there was some evidence that centre-based care had a positive effect on children from disadvantaged backgrounds but the effects were "small and are not sufficient to level the playing field".

Irish Independent

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