Working parents everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief: A new study shows daycare kids aren’t at greater risk for behavioral problems

Good news for working parents everywhere: A new study found that young kids who spend long hours at daycare aren’t at greater risk for behavioral problems than kids who spend most of their time at home.

The new study was published in the journal Child Development. In it, researchers reviewed data on more than 10,000 preschoolers who were taking part in seven different studies across five countries in North America and Europe. The data showed that the toddlers and preschoolers who spent the longest hours in daycare and childcare centers were not any more likely to exhibit antisocial behavior than their peers.

The data included reports from parents and teachers. It showed that kids who spent a lot of time in daycare had no increase in “externalizing” behaviors like bullying, getting into fights, hitting, biting, kicking, pulling hair, or other forms of acting out against others. They didn’t even show increased restlessness compared to their peers, the researchers said.

“This is reassuring given that trends in child-care use and parental participation in the labor force are likely to remain stable,” the group wrote. “Given the existing evidence of long-term achievement benefits of early childhood care and education for children, I think our findings speak to both the direct positive effects that attending child care might have on children and also the indirect positive effects through their parents being able to participate in the workforce without the fear of any harmful effects to their child.”

In fact, the researchers found that daycare not only didn’t worsen kids’ behavior; it could even provide stimulation, socialization, and education opportunities that benefit kids. This contributes to a 40-year debate among researchers about whether kids who spend time in daycare rather than at home with a parent are more prone to behavioral problems. While there’s evidence on both sides of the argument, the most recent science shows that when kids have supportive, high-quality care — whether it comes from a parent or a loving teacher at daycare — they thrive. It truly does take a village, and daycare can be an important part of that.

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