Thursday, November 26, 2015

Children from chaotic homes benefit from time in child care, study finds

Public Release: 19-Nov-2015
Children from chaotic homes benefit from time in child care, study finds
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Regularly attending child care may have numerous developmental benefits for children who live in chaotic, disorganized home environments, suggests a new study.

Numerous studies have linked chaotic households - homes that are overcrowded, noisy, unclean and lacking predictable routines - with low academic achievement and attention, social and behavioral problems among children in poverty.

Children from chaotic homes who spent more time in child care during infancy and early childhood experienced better cognitive, emotional and social development than peers from similar home environments who attended fewer hours of weekly child care, the researchers in the current study found.


Higher degrees of household chaos and disorganization across early childhood were associated with less optimal executive functioning, weaker vocabularies and worse social behavior, the researchers found.

However, these detrimental associations were significantly moderated by the amount of time the children attended child care, according to the study.

For children who spent 35 hours or more per week in child care, the links between household chaos and adverse developmental outcomes were eliminated. The researchers' analyses suggested that the mitigating effects of child care on the broader age-5 social and cognitive outcomes were explained largely by the buffering role that child care played in protecting children's executive functioning.

"The exposure to greater hours and higher quality care may provide a mitigating effect on the impact of chaos in the home," Berry said. "We don't understand the mechanisms fully, but we hypothesize that minimizing young children's exposure to highly chaotic environments may provide some relief."

Household chaos such as constant noise from a television, or frequent comings and goings by household members and visitors, may negatively impact a child's executive functioning by frequently diverting the child's attention, impairing their ability to regulate their attention and modulate their arousal, the researchers hypothesized.

Prior research findings on the effects of child care on children have been mixed, with some studies suggesting that children who spend greater time in child care are prone to more behavioral problems.

However, families in poverty were underrepresented in many of these studies' samples, and the developmental implications of child care may differ substantially for children from high-risk home environments, Berry said.


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