The development of children can be delayed if they attend day-care centers that do not meet professionally recommended standards, according to a major national study.
The study, released Saturday, found that children up to 3 years old rated lower in social, emotional, physical and cognitive development when they were enrolled in classes that failed to meet guidelines recommended by the American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics than children in centers that did meet the standards.
The children’s progress was measured using standardized tests for school readiness, language comprehension and expression as well as parents’ reports of their children’s behavior.
“This is saying (that) regulatory bodies can make a difference in preventing delays in kids’ development as a result of being in poor child care,” University of California, Irvine, Professor Alison Clarke-Stewart said.
She is one of the principal investigators in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s ongoing study of early child care, a 10-site, seven-year study involving 1,300 children. The latest results were released during the convention of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
The recommended standards for those who work at day-care centers include post-high school training in child development or early childhood education; child-staff ratios ranging from 3 to 1 for infants younger than 15 months to 7 to 1 for 3-year-olds; and group sizes no larger than six for children younger than 15 months, eight at age 2, and 14 at age 3.
Although some centers meet those standards, states’ requirements vary considerably, Clarke-Stewart said. For instance, some states allow an infant-staff ratio of 12 to 1. In states that regulate group size, some standards permit 20 infants in a room, she said.
No states require standards as high as those recommended by professionals in the field, researchers said.
By first grade, 98 percent of all children have experienced some form of nonparental child care, said Sharon Lynn Kagan, a senior research scientist at Yale University. Every day, 13 million children younger than 5 are cared for outside the home, she said.
As a result of last year’s new welfare reforms requiring some mothers to seek work, Congress has required states to establish their own minimum health and safety standards for child care.