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I got this from another board, but the original poster forgot which newspaper she got this article from. My apologies, but the points are certainly worth thinking about.

- Donna.


Reports on new study of child-care kids leave out the fine print

April 28, 2001
by Jane Clifford

Talk about a hot button. People are still talking about the federal
study released late last week that says kids who spend long hours in
day care are more aggressive and disobedient by the time they get to
kindergarten than those cared for at home by mom.

The report from the National Institute of Child Health & Human
Development is just some of what researchers are learning in a study
of 1,300-plus children at 10 sites that began in 1991, the largest
and longest of its kind.

Given the microscope fixed on children of working parents, this
latest information hit like a grenade. And the reaction was
immediate. The media jumped on the story, the child-care industry
faced off against the researchers, stay-at-home moms celebrated and
those working moms who already felt guilty hesitated a little longer
at the day-care center door.

And why not? Get this from a press release on the study: "Not only
were these children more likely to engage in assertive, defiant, and
even disobedient activities, but they were also more likely to bully,
fight with, or act mean to other children."

And it was found across the board with children who are in care more
than 30 hours a week -- not just poor children or minority children
or children in single-parent families.

But did anyone pay attention to the fine print? The report also said
the statistics applied to 17 percent of children. Not even 2 in 10.
The other 8 are apparently not mean and defiant.

You tell me, if you put 10 kids together, can you expect two of them
to act out? Duh. I can expect it sometimes when I only put two
together -- my two youngest. And when I was growing up, and everyone
I knew had stay-at-home moms, there were at least two troublemakers
for every 10 kids in my neighborhood.

Which brings us to what else the researchers found: that the 17
percent figure for day-care kids who act out mirrors kids in general.
Yep, 17 percent of all kids -- those in day care and those who aren't
-- show exactly the same tendencies.

The report also noted that kids in higher quality care forlong hours
are, generally, smarter, and better communicators. Most interesting
to the researchers, though it got lost in the flood of reaction, is
that the same negative behavior showed up in only 6 percent of
children in care for less than 10 hours a week.

I'm surprised that they would be surprised. Given that the report was
based on standard questionnaires filled out by caregivers -- parents
or others -- it's easy to understand the numbers. Teachers and
day-care staff are likely to be more honest about children's behavior
than parents are. I mean, really, if I'm doing most of the caregiving
for my children, am I going to admit that they're brats? To someone
doing a federal study? And most of us parents -- working or not --
are probably more forgiving about our kids' behavior than outsiders
would be.

So, what does all this mean?Your guess is as good as mine and, for
that matter, the folks who did the study. Earlier this week, Jay
Belsky, the lead researcher, and team member Kathleen McCartney, were
on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" radio program, trying to explain.
Their conclusion, when host Juan Williams could get them to stop
talking in "study-ese": They don't know yet.

McCartney, a professor in the Harvard Graduate School of Education,
and Belsky, director of the Institute for the Study of Children,
Families, and Social Issues at Birkbeck College at the University of
London, argued on the air about some issues.

By now, I'm screaming at the radio: What? Then what good is the

Before the hour-long broadcast was over I got an answer from Belsky
and McCartney and Williams' third guest, Anne Goldstein, who has 20
years' experience directly with children in child care and is now
executive director of USA Child Care, an umbrella group for
child-care providers.

All of them finally agreed that the No. 1 one thing we can take away
from the study is that child care is here to stay -- especially for
parents who have no choice, who work just to be able to put food in
the fridge -- and all of us ought to be concerned that every child in
care have the highest quality available. That means, among other
things, paying child-care professionals what they deserve so they'll
stay at this important work.

Beyond that, Belsky, McCartney and Goldstein had various suggestions,
all focused on ways to help working parents spend more time with
their children. And that may mean anything from more flexible
schedules or more realistic family leave policies at work, to more
soul-searching at home by those who have a choice as to whether they

If there's anything to take away from this report, it is seeing it as
yet another opportunity for all of us -- parents, care providers,
society -- to keep talking about children's lives, to keep asking
ourselves, honestly, if we are doing all we can.
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